Drivers don't have to repaint former police cars

I have seen an increase in civilians driving around our valley in ex-police cars. But one has to look closely to realize that because these cars still retain their police paint job. It makes me nervous to think about being pulled over by someone who has purchased one of these vehicles for bad reasons. How are we supposed to be able to tell a real police car from a fake one? Shouldn't these cars be repainted before they are sold?

— Emma G., Trail

We, at the Mail Tribune Vehicle Identification Department, assume you're speaking of law enforcement vehicles that retain their distinctive black and white, green and white, blue and white saddle pattern, Emma.

Identifying undercover police cars is too tricky for most mere mortals — until those pesky little lights start flashing. We think that's the point of being undercover.

Getting back to your question, retired police vehicles are frequently resold to help replenish the coffers of law enforcement agencies. Before the sale, police insignia, light racks and other specialized equipment and identifiers are supposed to be removed, say police officials. But there is no requirement to repaint the vehicles, according to Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen.

If you are being pulled over by law enforcement — or perhaps in your case, Emma, someone you have reason to believe is not a legitimate police officer — and you have any qualms about your safety, there are things you can do.

If you have a cell phone, call 9-1-1 and request that you be allowed to follow the officer to a police station. If you can't make a call, put on your emergency flashers, drive slowly and carefully to a lighted area — preferably the nearest police station.

By the way, Emma, did you know that strobing or flashing blue lights are generally reserved for law enforcement vehicles in our neck of the woods? Neither did we. Now we all do.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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