Local News

Durham Woman Thought Police Officer Was a Blue Light Bandit

Posted January 28, 1999

— Friday morning, Durham Police thought they had a blue light bandit case on their hands. By the end of the day, they realized the person in question was one of their own officers.

A woman says she was pulled over by an officer in an unmarked car who did not show a badge and made her feel uncomfortable.

A Durham Police report filed Friday morning told the story of a young woman pulled over by someone who may have been a blue light bandit.

Police had no reason to doubt her and began an investigation.

Late Friday afternoon, an officer stepped forward and said the man in question was actually him.

"He turned his hazards on first, and I thought it was just somebody that just needed to get around me. Then he hit a blue light," said Tara Sackmann.

The man she thought was a police officer got out of a car wearing a dark uniform with a flashlight in hand.

But, soon, she noticed that something was missing.

"That's when I noticed that he didn't have a name tag on. And that's when I started to get nervous," said Sackmann.

She eventually called the Durham Police Department, and they said they had no record of the stop.

"Later I'm thinking 'This could have happened to me, this could have happened to me, this could have happened to me.' I could have not made it," said Sackmann.

Later Friday afternoon, the Durham Police Department changed its story.

"What we have is a situation where an officer made a traffic stop last night, a routing traffic stop, and he had an equipment failure," said Durham Police Capt. Dwight Pettiford.

Pettiford says the officer did nothing wrong, and the misunderstanding was due to the lack of communication.

"It's just another example where we need state of the art equipment. If there would have been a mounted unit in the car, we would not have to depend on batteries. We wouldn't have this problem," said Pettiford.

Durham Police Department's spokesman says this is the first case he knows of in which an officer did not report a stop.

Sackmann says the officer told her that he stopped her because she ran a red light. Durham Police say once the officer stopped her, he noticed his radio was not working.


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