The Dangers Of Unmarked Police Cars

Police officers patrolling in unmarked cars is a topic that has not gotten too much attention in the last few years; however, in the rise of awareness of police brutality, it is important to pay attention to all facets of the police system that could potentially be harmful to citizens. Many red flags should be raised when people really think about police patrolling in unmarked cars. For instance, how much can the police legally use unmarked cars? Are they infringing on our rights? Before one can debate the use of unmarked police cars, there must be a basic understanding on the legality of the subject. 

An unmarked police car is a vehicle that is used by the police without any identifying markings as such. These markings usually consist of fixed, visible flashing lights, a siren that emits a loud signal or prominent markings that identify the police vehicle. In most states these cars are used for traffic violations such as speeding. In Ohio, police vehicles are all to be “marked in some distinctive manner” and equipped with some sort of colored light. The problems arise because criminals are able to impersonate these officers fairly easily, and officers use these cars for more than traffic violations.

Unmarked cars are very easy to impersonate, and this has yielded some tragic consequences. An incident that gained national attention in 2012 was when a person posed as a police officer pulled over two cars and shot the drivers in Mississippi. Many incidents such as this have happened around the nation. 

Furthermore, an incident occurred last August in Columbus when a Columbus police officer was patrolling in an unmarked car and killed a woman. Officer Andrew Mitchell was patrolling on South Yale Avenue at around 11:30 am on August 16th in an unmarked vehicle. It is important to note that he was not looking out for traffic violations, rather, he was on that street investigating a prostitution complaint.

Officer Mitchell pulled up next to Donna Castleberry who offered to get into his car. An altercation occurred inside the car that many reporters tweeted involved Donna trying to exit the vehicle. When the officer would not allow her, she became fearful, pulled out a switch blade and cut Mitchell on the hand in an attempt to get away. After this occurred, Mitchell shot Donna eight times and she succumbed to her wounds. Arguably Mitchell used excessive force in this situation, and his use of an unmarked car was also questionable. Unmarked cars can be very dangerous and it is important that citizens watch the police carefully so the rights of the people are not infringed upon. 

Officer Mitchell was under criminal investigation for a separate but possibly related incident earlier in the month at the time of the shooting and has previously been investigated by Internal Affairs seven times. He has since been relieved of duty and his prior unit, VICE, is under an ongoing investigation by the FBI

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