Juanita emailed VERIFY to ask if a chain message urging readers to dial 112 when stopped by an unmarked police car is true.
The message included a story about a woman who called the number when an unmarked police car attempted to pull her over. The dispatcher on the other end of the line, the story claims, told the woman that there were no police cars in her area and to continue driving. Four police cars showed up 10 minutes later to surround both cars and the person driving the supposed police car was a convicted rapist. The chain message adds that the 112 number is for state trooper info.
The story telling people to call 112 to identify unmarked police cars has spread through emails and messages for at least two decades.
Should you call 112 to confirm if an unmarked police car attempting to pull you over is legitimate?
No, you should not call 112 to confirm the identity of an unmarked police car. The only phone number to contact law enforcement that’s consistent in every state and jurisdiction across the U.S. is 911.
WHAT WE FOUND
Highway emergency phone numbers differ from state to state, and there’s no guarantee that 112, which is a European emergency number, will connect to emergency services in the United States.
The University of Oklahoma’s police department lists state-by-state highway emergency assistance phone numbers. In most states, that’s just 911. But some states offer two-digit, three-digit or 10-digit numbers specific for highway emergencies.
No state uses 112 as its highway emergency number, according to the University of Oklahoma Police Department.
That number is the emergency phone number used by all European Union countries, similar to 911 in the United States. Some U.S. wireless providers can reroute 112 to 911 call centers depending on the user’s location, according to a 2013 news post from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), but there is no guarantee that the number will actually work. For this reason, NENA urged people not to use 112 for any emergency, including for verifying the identity of an unmarked police car.
So, if dialing 112 won’t work, what should you do to verify whether an actual police officer is behind the wheel of an apparent unmarked police car?
Multiple states and cities advise drivers to turn on their hazard lights and drive slowly — under the speed limit — to a populated, well-lit area or to the nearest police station, where the driver can attempt to get the attention of a uniformed police officer. The driver can also call 911 to attempt to verify the police officer’s identity, much like the chain message tells people to do with 112.
NENA offers similar advice for people to follow nationwide.
“If an unmarked car is attempting to pull you over and you aren’t certain it’s actually a law enforcement officer, the best thing you can do is to slow down so it doesn’t appear that you are fleeing the police officer and call 911,” said April Heinze, NENA’s 911 and public safety answering point operations director. “Let the 911 professional know that you have an unmarked car behind you that is attempting to pull you over and you aren’t certain if it is a police officer.”
In the event you cannot place a call to 911, Heinze offered the same advice as local governments: Slowly drive to the nearest police station and park in a well-lit area.
“Typically, if an unmarked car cannot get someone to pull over they will ask dispatch to send them a marked car to help with the stop,” Heinze said.