What to do when suspect ‘officials’ pull you over
A recent alleged rape incident had tongues wagging and questions flying. A woman from George claimed she had been robbed and raped by four men dressed in police uniforms who were driving a car with police decals in the Hoogekraal area between George and Glentana.
News of the alleged incident spread fast and questions like "What are my rights when I get pulled over?", "Should I stop for police if I'm alone at night?" or "What should I do if it feels unsafe to stop?" were asked by readers on various platforms.
What the law says
The law is clear. It is an offence not to stop when instructed to do so by a police or traffic officer.
According to Southern Cape police spokesperson, Captain Malcolm Pojie, there is no legal aspect that justifies a motorist driving to the nearest police station when pulled over by the police or traffic officers. "You must stop when such officer requests you to do so. You do however have the right to request that the officer show you identification and give you a reason why he or she has stopped you. Should you still feel uncomfortable or offended, you may report it to the relevant authorities. Not stopping for police or traffic officers can immediately escalate the situation and may endanger your life," he said.
However, an article on Arrive Alive's website states that if you are followed by a vehicle with blue flashing lights that indicates you to pull over, particularly at night, you would be wise not to do so if you suspect they may not be officers of the law.
Instead, it may be wise to indicate that you wish to proceed to a police station or public place before stopping.
What to do
Indicate to the vehicle following you that you wish to have them follow you to a place of safety:
Slow down and turn your hazard lights on; Extend your right arm out of the window, bent at 90 degrees, with an outspread hand extended upward;
Gesture for them to follow you by moving your forearm forward and back;
Drive at no more than 40km/h and proceed directly to the closest police station or public place with CCTV cameras in operation;
Do not drive to your own, or a friend's home;
Call 10111 and tell them that you are being followed and are proceeding to the closest police station or public place;
If possible, provide the registration number of the vehicle that is following you so it may be established if it is a legitimate police vehicle;
When you get to a police station and there are no police personnel in sight outside, hoot for as long as it takes for someone to come out;
Stay in your vehicle with the engine running, in gear and your windows wound up until police from the station come out to you;
Cooperate with police personnel from that police station and the officers from the vehicle that followed you and explain immediately that you felt intimidated and therefore proceeded to the police station;
If you go to a service station, drive onto the forecourt where the pumps or the convenience shop are so you will be in full view of the cameras, and do the same as above.
There is a huge difference between evading, or fleeing from police and having them follow you to a place of safety.