Sheriff Maciol offers safety tips after police officer impersonation case

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol offers some safety tips after a local motorist says he was pulled over on State Route 49 between Utica and Rome by two men impersonating police officers. He says one of the men swabbed his mouth with a Q-tip.

Posted: Feb 17, 2020 5:57 PM
Updated: Feb 17, 2020 6:21 PM

MARCY, N.Y. - As State Police continue to look for two men believed to have impersonated police officers, stopping a vehicle along Route 49 between Utica and Rome forcing the driver to his knees, Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol wants to get the word out to people that this has happened and what you can do to keep safe if it were to happen to you.

State Police say a man, whom they are not identifying, told them he was pulled over on on Tuesday, January 28th around 5:20 P.M. along Route 49 in the Marcy-Floyd area by an unknown type of vehicle with flashing blue lights inside the windshield.

The driver told investigators two men, whom appeared to be in their 20's, around 6-feet tall and possibly Hispanic, got out of that flashing blue light vehicle in black winter coats and black winter hats and then forced him to get out of the car, and then forced him to stay on his knees at the rear of his vehicle.

He says one of the men searched his vehicle, and a second man took a Q-tip and swabbed his mouth. Both men then told the driver that he was all set and free to go.

The two men still have not been caught.

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol says this case being handled by State Police is very concerning for all law enforcement, "Blue lights would signify a volunteer firefighter. The circumstances around that case, everything that happened there, is certainly something that a legitimate police officer would ever do."

Maciol says police vehicles in New York State have red flashing lights, some do have blue lights mixed in, but they always have red flashing lights.

Maciol has some tips to stay safe if you are approached by a vehicle with only blue flashing lights, "If you do feel uncomfortable about exactly where you are, by all means put your flashers on or slow down. With your flashers on, at least if it is legitimate police officer behind you at that moment, they’re going to realize that you know they’re trying to pull you over so you’re going to send a signal to the police officer that you’re not fleeing from them. Maybe you want to go just a short distance up the road to find a safer place to pull over."

Maciol says if you are being pulled over by a a vehicle with only blue flashing lights, call 911, "If you see blue lights, blue lights in New York State, that’s a volunteer fire fighter so you have to yield to them, slow down and pull over, but if you’re stopping and they're stopping, then you’re probably going to want move on. Because again, a police officer’s not going to pull you over with blue lights."

Maciol says a police officer would never swab someone's mouth during a traffic stop.  He says such a swab is only used to get a DNA sample, and police have to serve a warrant to do so and it would never be done during a traffic stop.

State Police are asking anyone who may have been traveling on State Route 49 between the city of Rome and the city of Utica between the hours of 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Jan. 28 and may have witnessed the incident, to contact them at 315-366-6000.

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