County sheriff's deputies are investigating a weekend incident in which a female juvenile was stopped and questioned by a man posing as a law enforcement officer.
Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton issued a statement regarding the incident.
“This is a very dangerous situation and I would like to ask the citizens' help in identifying this individual and vehicle, unfortunately this is all the description the female was able to give,” Singleton said. “I want to caution citizens, especially female drivers who may encounter a situation like this not to stop in a situation like this.”
Hempstead County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mickey Atkinson said the HCSO received a report from a female juvenile who had been driving on Arkansas Highway 355 near its intersection at Hempstead County Road 5 in the Spring Hill area on Sunday night.
Atkinson said the young woman reported that a vehicle behind her sounded a loud siren, but showed no flashing emergency lights as she was driving along Hwy. 355 about 11:15 p.m. He said after the young woman stopped her car, she alleged that a white male approached her driver's side window and demanded to see her driver's license, noting that he had received reports of underage drivers in the vicinity.
“He was not in uniform and he was wearing blue jeans, and he did not have a badge,” Atkinson said.
All HCSO patrol deputies are required to dress in uniform while on duty, according to Singleton.
“Only in emergency circumstances will a deputy not be in uniform while conducting traffic stops,” he said. “And the very first thing our deputies will tell you is their name and that they represent the Hempstead County Sheriff's Office. And, if they are not in uniform, they will provide you with photo identification.”
Atkinson said the young woman described the vehicle as a “dark white”, two door sedan.
“There are no two-door cars that we have,” Atkinson said. “We don't encourage making traffic stops in unmarked vehicles.”
He said all HCSO patrol deputies drive four-door style vehicles, either SUV or pickup models, and all patrol vehicles are marked. HCSO vehicles are Dodge and Ford brand vehicles that are marked with reflected “Sheriff” markings, according to Singleton.
“She said when another car approached, he gave her back her license and he left,” Atkinson said. “We are in the process of getting more information on the incident. Several years ago, we had two or three situations similar to this, and we never did come up with anything on them.”
Singleton advised female juvenile drivers to be watchful, and take precautions should they suspect they are being followed by someone, or should someone in an unmarked vehicle attempt to stop them.
“Proceed to a well-lighted, populated area before considering stopping; and, if you are still in doubt, dial 911 or your local law enforcement agency and describe your hesitation to stop,” he said. “The agency will immediately find out if you are being stopped by a real officer.”