CLARKSBURG -- Police are investigating a report that a man posing as a police officer stopped a woman driving on U.S. 50 about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and tried to grab her.
The woman, who became suspicious because the man was driving a Ford Probe, escaped and called police, said Clarksburg Police investigator Cpl. Robert Matheny.
Matheny said the woman was driving west on U.S. 50 between Joyce and Second streets when she noticed a car behind her with flashing blue lights. A man wearing an authentic-looking police uniform, complete with name tag, gold badge, hat and gun belt, approached her car, Matheny said.
The man allegedly told the woman she had a headlight out. When she got out of the car to check the headlights, he grabbed her, Matheny said.
The man was described as 55 to 60 years old, with salt-and-pepper hair and a full beard. The name on the name tag was Davis, Matheny said.
Police Chief John Walker said the incident concerns him because of the potential safety problem, both for area motorists and to legitimate police officers.
Walker noted the alleged impersonator was not driving a marked police cruiser, but was in a Ford Probe. While police departments do use unmarked police cars, no local department owns any of the sports cars. All of Clarksburg's unmarked cars have a front license plate with a badge identifying the vehicle as a police car, Matheny said.
Walker said there are a few precautions that motorists can take to protect themselves as well as police officers.
"If you can, don't speed up or try to elude the officer, but pick a well-lighted area to pull over," Walker said. "Also, roll your window only partially down, just enough to get your license and registration through."
Other tips: Never exit your vehicle unless directed by the officer and always keep your hands where the officer can see them, preferably on the steering wheel.
"It's definitely an issue because of safety, but we don't want people panicking and causing more problems," Walker said.
While no incidents have been reported to other local departments, Bridgeport Police Chief Jack Clayton said motorists should be suspicious of cars that do not look like police cars. Additionally, he said most traffic stops are initiated by uniformed officers in marked cars.
"Most of the time around here, there really shouldn't be any doubt. Even unmarked cars are obviously police cars," he said.
Anyone with information about Wednesday's incident is asked to contact Matheny at 624-1618 or the anonymous tip line at 624-1625.
Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org