What separates a plainclothes cop from a crazy road-rage person in your rearview mirror?

I had a confusing WTF incident while driving to work this morning and would appreciate your constructive feedback and advice.

I was driving from Storrow Drive towards Kenmore Square with the goal of getting on Beacon St. to end up in Brookline. Map here:

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I made a right turn from the right-hand lane from Charlesgate onto Beacon St. If you drive through this intersection regularly, you may know that this section of Beacon is one-way and has two lanes. As you approach Raleigh St. and Kenmore Square, a third lane opens up on the left that is typically flanked by parked cars. I usually pull into this lane to go straight through the light at Kenmore to continue traveling on Beacon. As the lane opened up, I looked to my left to make sure no cars were approaching and seeing none, I turned my vehicle to the left and proceed to drive into the lane.

At this point a car starts honking. I look again to my left and there is a brown/gray sedan suddenly in the lane I am turning into. I assume I am the jerk here and have possibly cut someone off that I didn't see and the male driver is yelling at me. I mouth the words "I'm sorry" but the man is really upset and still honking. I start to get nervous that I've got a road rage person on my hands. Suddenly he starts flashing a blue light from the inside of the car and I think oh no, is this a plainclothes police officer in an unmarked car?

I pull over not 100% sure this was a cop - isn't one supposed to ask for a badge or call 911 to verify someone is indeed a police officer? - but didn't want to take any chances either. I pull over to the side of the road near Bertucci's and he pulls up in his car next to me. He is not wearing a uniform and did not produce a badge, but I was pretty freaked out by him at this point and did not ask to see one. He yells that I failed to yield to him while driving and threatens to write me a ticket. I apologized again and again and stated that I didn't see him in the lane I was moving into. He never got out of the car and drove off. I felt confused and somewhat frightened.

Some questions:
- What are BPD policies regarding plainclothes police officers in an unmarked car? I've looked here but was unable to find information:
http://www.cityofboston.gov/police/rules.asp

- Can one be mailed a traffic ticket?

- What would you have done? Any tips for driving through this intersection better next time?

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    Comments

    Could have been a trooper too.

    The policy for unmarked cars is the same for marked ones. He could have been going to an emergency, but you say he had a blue light from inside the car? That doesn't sound like any state police or Boston police car I know.

    Legally yes he can mail you a ticket, but I'd say there is less than a 1% chance he will.

    If you aren't sure you are being pulled over by a cop you can call 911 and give them your location and they will either verify the traffic stop or send another unit to assist.

    Thanks Pete!

    By on

    I appreciate the info! Yes, the light came from inside the car. Other than that, there were no other obvious signs that he could have been an officer, i.e., huge radio, video on dash, wall separating front seat from back seat, etc. The whole incident probably was over in 5 minutes so it's possible I missed something. Perhaps some kind of officer off-duty?!

    If he would have gotten out of his car and come towards me I would have been on 911 to check him out ASAP. It's unnerving to think this has to be done in broad daylight driving through a heavily populated area but I suppose so be it.

    Similar occurence before

    By on

    I had something like this happen before to me in Baltimore. I moved left into a lane that is normally a parking lane but during rush hour it's used as a travel lane. As I moved over at the very start of the lane restriction, I heard a horn and swerved back in time to avoid running a car already over there off the road. As he braked hard, I moved back into that lane and began driving off leaving him behind.

    A car about a block and a half ahead of me pulls in front of me and puts a flashing light on in its rear window and pulls me over. I ask what the problem is and he asks if I hit someone back up the road. I said no. At the same time, the guy who basically almost ran me over from behind pulls up with a blue light on his dash. He gets out and starts screaming about "Why didn't you stop back there?" I said, "Why? I didn't know I had to stop if there was no accident." His complaint was that I *might* have hurt someone so I should stop (there was no way anyone was hurt...his car never left the lane, just stopped hard and mine never touched his). He tries to find any damage he can on his car with about 2-3 other buddies showing up while the first guy who stopped me starts running my license and registration (both clean). When I come back clean, the guy who stopped me asks his buddy if he wants to do anything with me but since he found ZERO damage on his car, he huffs and lets me go while still berating me for not stopping.

    It turns out they both worked at the SuperMax prison as guards. So, I don't know about MA lights/cars (and I don't know why there'd be a prison guard driving around Kenmore necessarily), but I wonder if he's some sort of sheriff or MBTA police or BU cop or other "official" and that's why he didn't do anything other than get mad and yell (because he doesn't write citations, or because he's out of his jurisdiction or something).

    I think you're going to be just fine. No mailed ticket and probably never see or hear from this guy again. He was just using his credentials (whatever they are) to intimidate you and blow off steam after you scared him by making a likely perfectly legit move not expecting him to come plowing up behind you from wherever he came from. Remember, he's the cop and you're the citizen...so even if he's wrong, you're the one who's wrong.

    Yea...

    likely perfectly legit move not expecting him to come plowing up behind you from wherever he came from

    Or she did what she said and merged without looking. Either way it is a mistake we all make. No excuse for the cop (or fake cop) to yell at anyone, but it doesn't mean she was "likely" doing something legal.

    But every once in a while there are people who stop people that do not have the legal authority to do so. Besides the dangerous criminals who prey on women with illegal blue lights (rare but it has happened), you often get these wanna be cops or firefighters with fake badges, lights, stickers or whatever. The pull you over because they want to have that power of pulling someone over and telling them what to do. Its not common, but it isn't rare either.

    What she said...

    By on

    As the lane opened up, I looked to my left to make sure no cars were approaching and seeing none, I turned my vehicle to the left and proceed to drive into the lane.

    Come on, Pete. You didn't even have to click a link to read it.

    She kind of made her story

    seem like she was at fault for a minor careless move by not checking safely enough.

    99% of people who get into accidents by changing lanes into someone else will tell you they looked and didn't see anyone.

    Hell I've done it, it's a common mistake.

    Maybe I'm wrong and the blue light car came out of nowhere recklesly.

    Yep

    By on

    Maybe I'm wrong and the blue light car came out of nowhere recklesly.

    I remember looking. I still have no idea where this other car came from so quickly!

    Eery similarities

    By on

    Thanks Kaz! I'm sorry you had to go through something similar - who do these people think they are? Do they not have somewhere they are supposed to be that they can take the time to pull moves like this, and for what? The pleasure of intimidating someone? To boost a prison guard's ego? Ugh.

    He was just using his credentials (whatever they are) to intimidate you and blow off steam after you scared him by making a likely perfectly legit move not expecting him to come plowing up behind you from wherever he came from. Remember, he's the cop and you're the citizen...so even if he's wrong, you're the one who's wrong.

    I think you're right. It's such a crazy intersection that I wanted to make sure I did everything I was supposed to do. I did my best! And will call 911 next time if needed.

    Citations should be issued at "time and place of violation"

    By on

    Most unmarked cruisers have, at a minimum, a siren and a low-profile blue strobe light facing forward, usually mounted inside near the rear-view mirror. I find it a little odd that this man was honking and not giving a blast of the siren to stop you. It's not difficult for anyone to obtain such a light by ordering on-line, usually with little or no verification. It seems every year there's a few yahoos, sometimes teens sometimes predators, who get their hands on a blue light and try to play cop. As someone said above, when in doubt call 911, preferably from a well lit, populated area or drive to a police station. As always, try to get the plate number.

    An officer can legally mail you a citation, but the law is pretty clear that the court wants the citation issued on the spot unless there's a good reason, see an excerpt from MGLC 90c S. 2 below.

    "A failure to give a copy of the citation to the violator at the time and place of the violation shall constitute a defense in any court proceeding for such violation, except where the violator could not have been stopped or where additional time was reasonably necessary to determine the nature of the violation or the identity of the violator, or where the court finds that a circumstance, not inconsistent with the purpose of this section to create a uniform, simplified and non-criminal method for disposing of automobile law violations, justifies the failure. In such case the violation shall be recorded upon a citation as soon as possible after such violation and the citation shall be delivered to the violator or mailed to him at his residential or mail address or to the address appearing on his license or registration as appearing in registry of motor vehicles records. The provisions of the first sentence of this paragraph shall not apply to any complaint or indictment charging a violation of section twenty-four, twenty-four G or twenty-four L of chapter ninety, providing such complaint or indictment relates to a violation of automobile law which resulted in one or more deaths."

    Thanks!!

    By on

    Thanks for all the helpful info. I'll definitely call 911 ASAP next time, and will post an update although hopefully there won't be any new info. I suppose if I get a ticket at least he was legit! And possibly out of line. :)

    Eerily similar

    By on

    I don't remember if this guy was Hispanic, but he had gray hair and in the brief time we chatted he looked like Lenny Clarke!

    Pro-tip

    I come through Kenmore for work every day. Here's a tip: Instead of turning right onto Beacon, go one more block and turn right on Comm Ave. It'll be easier and safer for you to get in that left lane for your turn in Kenmore.

    "What would you have

    By on

    "What would you have done?"

    Use my blinker.

    Identification...

    By on

    Sounds like you were rather shook up and probalby didn't think of it at the time, but it would have been good to get his licence plate number. You then could have investigated/made a complaint. On duty or not, his behavior was pretty unprofessional. And if he wasn't a cop, I'm sure the local constabulary would love to have a conversation with him about giving other citizens the wrong impression about his current profession.

    And if he does mail you a citation, you'll have enough identification to bring you back to making a complaint about the nature of the encounter!

    You're right

    By on

    I was pretty shaken, I cried the rest of the way to work. I wish I would have grabbed his plate - next time although I hope I never have this happen again!

    Pulled over by a fake badge

    By on

    A couple years ago I was driving westbound on 16. A car entering from the 99 rotary didn't yield and since I knew there was a car coming up on my left, I couldn't move over.

    As I crossed the bridge, a white SUV with NH plates pulls up to me with the driver, an older male, yelling furiously. I ignored him until he held a badge out the window. No sirens, no lights. I pulled into the liquor store parking lot and a 70 year old man proceeded to berate me for failing to yield to the woman in the car that almost hit me, and to threaten me for endangering the baby in her car. He showed me the badge quickly, and said something about the badge being a "friends of the police" or retirement league for all I remember, but that he could still get me arrested. I let him yell for a few minutes until he stormed off. Nothing ever came of it.

    I called the police and gave them a run down of the events and his license plate. I got the usual 'we'll get right on that' brush-off.

    Too bad

    By on

    That sucks...especially since it sounds like there are similarities between your experience and others who have responded. Maybe these "cops" do this to drive however they want? It's unsettling that there are multiple stories but I'm learning a lot. At least you got the plate number!

    Was it a Crown Vic? BPD has a

    By on

    Was it a Crown Vic? BPD has a lot of grey Crown Vics for unmarked duty.

    The giveaway is usually the lighting - all-blue strobes at the top of the windshield (maybe with a few white ones - virtually every law enforcement agency in Boston uses all-blue), blue strobes in the grill (not always), and white strobes in the headlights that flash in alternating patterns. I don't think officers can choose to turn on a specific set of lights other than front, back, and spots.

    Good questions

    By on

    I'm not sure what the make of the car was, although it didn't look like a typical police car. He had a blue strobe light on his dashboard. I don't remember other lights elsewhere. After reading feedback form everyone kind enough to leave comments, stories, or questions, I'm leaning towards this guy not being a police officer. I'll certainly update if I get a ticket. Scary!!

    It's not rare to see

    By on

    It's not rare to see plainclothes officers in odd cars. My only sighting was when I was in a n accident on the highway =/ and our cars were slowing down traffic so some jerk sped up once he was through the accident zone... The Mitsubishi behind him lit up like a Christmas tree and the guy inside had a wife beater on, I was about to fall over laughing but was at an accident scene so...
    Anyways the most lights ive evr seen on a police car was a red Mitsubishi with a guy in a wife beater inside, undercover are much more rare than unmarked but they are out there.