Pip and the Fake Cop
I was pulled over by a fake cop while on my way to work Wednesday night (Nov. 6, 2013). It was, in retrospect, a profoundly weird experience. Let me tell you about it.
It was about 11pm when I came to the attention of a gentleman who had, apparently, installed bright red, police style lights behind the grill-work of his black SUV. I was driving north on Highway 101 near SFO airport when I merged right, onto the onramp for 380 Highway. According to what the nefarious gentleman in the black SUV later told me, he took umbrage at the manner of my merge. He followed me from SFO onto Highway 380, over onto Highway 280, and then into San Francisco, where he pulled me over on Junipero Serra Blvd. (at Brotherhood Way). Google Maps tells me that that is a distance of eight miles.
I first became aware of our nefarious gentleman when I saw his bright red, police style lights blinding me in my rear-view mirror, just after entering the city/county of San Francisco at the off-ramp for Brotherhood Way. I could see nothing of the vehicle behind me except the bright red lights. Believing this to be actual police, I immediately pulled my car over to the right. I was then in the lane for the Brotherhood Way off-ramp, blocking the lane. I turned my car off, removed the keys and activated my emergency blinkers.
Cars began to honk at us, as we were blocking the off-ramp lane. This was strange. People don't normally honk at police cars engaged in police activity, no matter what they are blocking. Of course, our nefarious gentleman did not have police lights in the back of his SUV. So, to passers-by, it just looked like two idiots blocking the off-ramp lane. Our nefarious gentleman had turned off his red lights, but he had his high beams on (and possibly white spot-lights on me). So I still could not see his vehicle.
Our nefarious gentleman did not have a loud speaker or public address system on his SUV, so he shouted at me to pull my car forward. I put my keys back in my car, restarted the engine, and slowly drove forward on Junipero Serra Blvd. to just past the Brotherhood Way off-ramp. I turned off my car, removed the keys and put the keys on the passenger seat. I rolled down my window.
Our nefarious gentleman then exited his SUV and approached my car. I could see that he was dressed in a police uniform. It was a blue uniform of the San Mateo or San Francisco police departments. It was definitely NOT the tan uniform of the California Highway Patrol. Due to the bright white lights from his SUV, I could not see if he had a badge. He did have a police crest on his sleeve, but I could not see if it was the San Mateo or San Francisco police departments.
He asked me to turn off my engine. This was strange. My engine was off, and the car keys removed. I told him so.
He asked for my driver's license, and I gave it him. He then revealed the reason for all this. He expressed his displeasure for the manner in which I entered the Highway 101 to Highway 380 crossover. In other words, he said that I cut him off. I did not remember cutting anybody off. I certainly did not remember cutting off a police vehicle. But then, it wasn't a police vehicle, was it.
He sniffed in my car as if to try to detect the odor of drugs or alcohol. He seemed to not like what he smelled. He asked me if I had been drinking. I answered with a clear and emphatic "no".
He asked me where I was coming from. I answered "San Mateo". He had my driver's license. He could see my address. He asked me where I was going. Now, there is a question that always pisses me off. It is nobody's business where I go. I do not need the permission or approval of police officers to travel anywhere I damn well please. So, I answered "to my employment".
Our nefarious gentleman then asked me who my employer is. I answered with "I discuss my employment only with people who need that information." I was sure the shit was going to hit the fan now. "Oh, it's going to be that way, is it?" he said, and walked back to his vehicle.
I was certain that I could not escape a ticket. You can't be that kind of rude to the police without getting a ticket at the very least, or arrested, or shot, depending on the temperament of the police officer involved. And it was clear to me that this guy was a hot-head. But when he came back, all he did was ask for car registration and proof of insurance. That was odd.
I rifled through my glove compartment for the documents requested. The proof of insurance was the easy one. It is in a clear plastic slip. The car registration was a bit more tricky. The first one I came up with was last year's registration, not the current one. I gave our nefarious gentleman those, and continued looking for the current document. I found it, but he didn't want it. "I have what I need" he said. That was odd. He didn't need the current registration?
I was sure that I would get the ticket now. But, no. What I got was a stern talking to. "You're in San Francisco now" he began. What did that mean? He had followed me for eight miles, and pulled me over 300 feet across the county line into San Francisco. "You have to drive safely now" he said. Well, duh.
I tried again to see what jurisdiction he was with. But I still could not make out what the police crest on his shirt sleeve said.
"I am giving you a warning. I've entered your name in the police records that I have given you this warning" he said. "If you are pulled over again, no more warnings will be given. You will be given a citation." I have heard that claptrap before. I consider it a joke. "Thank you, sir" I dutifully replied. He gave me back my documents, and returned to his vehicle.
I set about putting my documents away. Our nefarious gentleman started to pull away, but stopped. He yelled for me to move on. That was odd. Why can't I just put my stuff away? But then I saw why. I saw his vehicle at last: a black, unmarked, civilian, SUV. The jig was up. He was not a cop. Or at least not an on-duty cop.
It seems clear to me now. He did not write me a citation because he could not write me a citation. He was not a cop. He did not pull out in front of me because he did not want me to see his civilian car or license plate. He had followed me for eight miles until I got 300 feet into San Francisco to use jurisdiction as an excuse for not writing a citation. That would only work if he were a San Mateo police officer. Yes, I think that he was an off-duty San Mateo police officer who had tricked-out his private, personal SUV specifically so that he can make these false traffic stops. At some point, I bet, you will be reading about this guy in the newspapers. Is he planning rapes? Murders? Time will tell. I think I got off lucky.
In the end, though, I got my small revenge. You see, that evening I was having problems with gas. That is to say, I was farting up a storm. By the time I got to San Francisco, my car was an explosive, stinky mess. So when our nefarious gentleman leaned in to smell whether I was using drugs or alcohol, what he got was a lung full of my noxious output. It was the least that he deserved, I'm sure.
EDITED TO ADD:
The end of this encounter is marked by me seeing the fake cop’s civilian vehicle for the first time. Only then, as I was pulling out from the curb to continue on my way to work, did I realize that the traffic stop had been a fake. It was too late to get a better look at the fake cop or his car. As I was turning from Junipero Serra Blvd. onto 19th Ave., I looked back to see if he was following me. But no, he was gone. In the whole encounter, I never got a good look at the guy. As I think back over the complete incident, my not getting a good look at the fake cop was probably purposefully arranged by the fake cop. By the time I knew that I would need to take special action to identify this guy, the whole thing was over and he was gone. Does it worry me that this crazy man has my address? Yes, it does.
--Pip R. Lagenta