Authorities are reminding motorists how to respond to unmarked police cars after a 33-year-old Sandwich woman reported being raped by a possible police imposter Tuesday evening.
The Kendall County Sheriff's Office, Yorkville police and Oswego police all have unmarked squad cars in their fleets, so motorists should call 911 or travel to a more populated area if they suspect an unmarked vehicle trying to pull them over is not driven by a police officer.
The advice comes the day after a woman reported that a uniformed man driving a blue Ford Crown Victoria with red and blue flashing lights pulled her over on Griswold Springs Road near Plano. She reported that the man pulled a handgun and forced her into a nearby cornfield, where he raped and beat her. ( for more information on the incident.)
Baird said he’s heard of individuals impersonating police officers in other areas, but had never heard of something of this magnitude happening anywhere in the area. What was also unsettling and suspicious was incident was reported in daylight hours, Baird said.
“Cases like these are very rare,” Baird said.
The sheriff's office generally uses unmarked vehicles for detectives or non-patrol command staff, so the majority of traffic stops involve marked squad cars, Detective Sgt. Joe Jasnosz said.
But unmarked cars are useful for catching speeders in problem areas, and officers driving unmarked cars will react if they see a dangerous or possibly drunk driver, Jasnosz said.
"They have to do what's necessary to prevent that fatal traffic crash or making someone into a victim," Jasnosz said.
The Oswego Police force has two unmarked cars that work in the fleet, which have the spotlight in the back seat. The police chief, captains and detectives also have unmarked cars, but Baird said they very rarely make arrests in them.
Baird said they may run one unmarked car a shift, but sometimes they don’t use any of them.
Yorkville Police Chief Rich Hart described a similar situation in his town, although Yorkville's unmarked cars have a full bar of lights across the windshield and more lights on the grill. Police in unmarked cars will respond to immediate safety threats - such as potential drunk drivers - but typically request a marked squad respond to more minor situations, Hart said.
Authorities with all three departments encouraged motorists to follow traffic laws while going to a safe area if they question the legitimacy of an unmarked car trying to pull them over.
Baird recommends proceeding to an area where there’s a traffic light, a gas station or other populated location. But most importantly be sure to still obey all traffic laws.
“Travel within the speed limit, stop at stop signs and be sure to obey all traffic signals,” said Baird. “You want the officer to understand you are not trying to flee.”
Putting on your car’s flashers is a good way of acknowledging to the officer that you know he or she is there, said Baird. Then, when you do stop, explain to the officer your reasons for leaving. Baird said that sometimes officers try to pull people over where it won’t be a traffic hazard or cause a block, which can sometimes be in an unpopulated area.
The best thing to do though, said Baird, is to use your cell phone and call 911. Explain that there is a car behind you and ask if there was any officer in that area. If the answer is yes, Baird recommends then pulling over.
Hart said officers take police impersonation cases very seriously, even ones that don't involve the violence of Tuesday's incident.
"It's one of those things we take very serious, because it affects our ability to do our job," Hart said.