COLUMBIANA - A man driving a van in the city or surrounding area trying to pass himself off as a police officer is not a member of the Columbiana Police Department, Police Chief Tim Gladis said Tuesday.
Gladis confirmed the department received a call from a woman Monday evening who said she had been stopped by a man in a white van.
According to the woman's description she had just left the Sparkle Market and was at the state Route 14 intersection when the man in the van began honking his horn at her and actually got out of his vehicle and approached hers when she was stopped at a traffic light.
The woman claimed the man tapped on her window, showed her a badge and then told her in a threatening manner to do a better job of driving. The man reportedly followed her past the Marathon service station before heading toward Leetonia.
The woman described the white male as tall, bald and wearing glasses and driving a gray van.
Gladis said the woman did not provide a license plate number and did not file a report, but wanted the department to be aware of the situation.
In a message on the department's Facebook page in response to another concerned citizen, the chief said the only two unmarked vehicles the department uses are his black Dodge Charger and a white Chevy Impala used by the detective, and both have full police lighting packages, with red and blue lights. While people are required to stop for police vehicles, including unmarked cars, officers are required by state law to identify themselves using a badge or other sign of authority, including name tags specifying which department they represent.
"If you have any doubt, I would recommend going to a public place where there are witnesses," he said.
People are also encouraged to call the police department at 330-482-9292 if they are not sure if the person stopping them is an actual officer, and a dispatcher will verify their identity.
"We are required to call in every call, so we'll know if we have somebody behind you trying to stop you or not," he said.
With regards to the incident, he said the fact that the man was driving a van and was not in uniform is automatically suspicious.
"Generally people in vans aren't making traffic stops. We will arrest anyone we find trying to impersonate an officer," he said.
The department is still investigating a road rage incident from Sunday afternoon, he added.
In that case a man reported another man driving a Ford Taurus on Duquesne Street got out of his vehicle and began yelling at him and identified himself as a deputy.
"He identified himself as a deputy sheriff but we don't know what sheriff's office. The guy probably wasn't anybody or he would have stuck around," Gladis said.
The man was described as a black male wearing a ball cap and he reportedly did not show a badge or any other form of identification during the confrontation.
Gladis said the matter is being investigated as an isolated road rage incident.