Each week, Scottsbluff Police Cpl. Krisa Brass will answer questions submitted by Star-Herald readers. Send questions for consideration to email@example.com or by leaving your question at 308-632-9057.
Q: Are cops allowed to pull people over in unmarked cars? What can you do if you aren’t sure the person trying to stop you is actually a cop?
A: Is this allowed by state statute, yes, but department policies may differ. If you have doubts for whatever reason the person is not actually a police officer, call 911. Provide your location and a description of the vehicle to the dispatcher. The dispatcher will likely have additional questions but they will also be able to verify whether or not the vehicle trying to stop you is a police officer. If the person is not an officer, the dispatcher can send an officer your way to intervene.
Impersonating a police officer is a criminal offense and is not taken lightly. What many people probably don’t know is there is also a statue for impersonating a public servant (other than a police officer). In the event someone came to your home or called you and claimed to be with a certain government agency and you had your doubts, calling that local agency to verify the persons credentials is certainly something you could do.
Q: What can you do if you don’t think someone should be getting arrested or the cops are treating them poorly?
A: As discussed before, if you don’t think you or someone else should be getting cited, arrested, etc. the place to argue that is in a court of law, not on the street. If you were a witness or somehow involved in the situation, make sure to provide your name and contact information to the officers as well as a statement about what happened if you are willing to do so. Chances are you don’t know the entirety of the situation and the officers could have information that you are unaware of. That’s why it’s important to contest the issue in court rather than try to argue it on the street.
It's one thing to simply state that you don’t agree with the decision but be mindful of what actions could lead to your behavior crossing a threshold and becoming an obstruction. Nebraska State Statue describes obstructing an officer as; “by using or threatening to use violence, force, physical interference, or obstacle, he or she intentionally obstructs, impairs, or hinders the enforcement of the penal law or the preservation of peace by a peace officer or judge acting under the color of his or her official authority.” The statute also includes police animals which are assisting a peace officer under their official authority.
As for the mistreatment of someone; if you simply think an officer was rude or out of place in their statements it would be appropriate to contact their supervisor. If you feel the situation is more severe than that and have concerns with the amount of force being used or something similar, this is another situation where you could call 911 and report your concern which in most cases would prompt a response by the supervisor if he or she were not already on scene.