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Ask The Times: What are protocols for officers in unmarked vehicles?
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If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following question was submitted by a reader and answered through the efforts of our news staff.


Are there any special procedures that are different than normal for officers pulling someone over or responding in unmarked cars or dressed in plain clothes?

Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said the department regularly uses unmarked vehicles for special details, such as the holiday season when officers are looking for people breaking into cars.

“However, we typically do not use unmarked vehicles for traffic enforcement or traffic stops,” Holbrook said.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office also doesn’t designate unmarked vehicles for traffic stops.

Holbrook added that officers in unmarked cars or plain clothes generally relay information to officers in marked vehicles and uniforms to make contact with individuals in the community.

He said it is a rare situation, most likely when there’s an immediate threat, that an officer in an unmarked car or plain clothes would stop someone. In those moments, Holbrook said, people should ensure that they protect themselves first.

He advised drivers in the unusual instance of being pulled by an unmarked car to turn on their flashing lights, turn into a well-lit, highly-populated area and call 911 to make sure they are actually being stopped by an officer if they aren’t sure.

Holbrook said citizens should ask for the officer’s identification in such a scenario because all Gainesville Police officers are required to carry an ID.

Sheriff’s Office policy says that in the rare instances where deputies in unmarked vehicles have to make a vehicle stop, they are instructed to use all of their available emergency lights, call in the stop to dispatch by their issued radio or by cellphone, and to clearly identify themselves as a law enforcement officer.

Because deputies in unmarked vehicles know they may not initially be recognized as an emergency vehicle, deputies are advised to “allow other motorists to be able to properly react to the presence of an emergency vehicle.”

Also, the Sheriff’s Office policy says, “Once the initial contact is made, the deputy should determine if he or she is in need of a marked unit.”


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