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Apr-07-2009 12:12printcommentsVideo

Oregon Police Increasingly Using Unmarked Vehicles for Traffic Stops (VIDEO)

Are police putting your family's life at risk? Yes, they are.
Oregon State Police unmarked police car on I-5 photo by Tim King

(McMINNVILLE, Ore.) - Fighting crime and overtaking our rights as people, are truly different things. Drivers in the Northwest need to be painfully aware that the use of unmarked cars and trucks as police vehicles is on the rise. It makes your life and the lives of your loved ones far less safe.

In fact, cops in both Oregon and Washington know that they open the door to police impostors by using unmarked cars for traffic enforcement, and they don't care.

As the economy suffers and falters and people lose jobs, officers and deputies are posing increasingly as regular motorists so they can write you up with a big fat ticket.

In turn, Oregon drivers are made to stretch their finances all the more just to put food on the table and feed their kids. This is a bad time to be citing working Americans for anything more than serious violations.

If law enforcement insists on providing that ticket-based revenue, then least they should do is be held to a standard of identifiability. Any time a cop is on the road, people slow down. They drive more carefully and are reminded that there is a law enforcement presence.

Not the case with sneaky, unmarked traffic enforcement programs.

There are different levels of unmarked police cars.

In Marion County, Oregon, the traffic team uses Mustangs. These are identifiable but low profile law enforcement vehicles. The red and blue lights are not visible in the back window until they are activated, but the doors are marked. This concept seems to accomplish the less visible approach in traffic enforcement, but you can tell they are the real thing.

Oregon State Police tend to use regular traffic cruisers like Ford Crown Victoria's that are completely unmarked, and I know they use a Camaro for traffic enforcement. They can fairly identifiable but only when they are painted in the standard police blue. They do use at least one Camaro that is not blue. As far as I know, only uniformed officers troopers operate these vehicles as unmarked traffic patrol units.

Way Over the Line

In Yamhill County, Oregon, police are seriously not who you think they are. Remember, this is the Oregon county that tried to send two junior high age boys basically up the river because they touched or slapped girls on the rear end at school. Plenty of religious folk and lots of farmers; this is a conservative place that is a lot like it was several generations ago. Its proximity to the progressive city of Portland seems only incidental.

I observed something in Yamhill County this week that made my blood boil and it is still simmering. It was a cop driving a completely unmarked metallic green Ford Expedition, that looked like a grandpa truck with the lights completely hidden in the grill, and the cop was wearing civilian clothes.

What happened to the integrity of the police? Why aren't they using our tax dollars to slow traffic down by being police? Why do they have to resort to trickery and underhandedness?

We are raised in this country to believe that being honest, forthright and direct are virtues worth following. Don't look for any moral lessons with today's law enforcement though, when it comes to traffic enforcement practices. It's all about the money baby, and they like to parade as non-cops to trick us.

You know what the real trick is? Figuring out where hundreds of missing people are today, who were pulled over and taken away by a person posing as a cop.

This is the reality of what these tax-paid government servants are doing. They create and foster an environment where criminals can slap a red light on their car and pull women over with bad intent. These police practices mean your wife/mom/girlfriend's systems of self-protection from predators on the road are all gone.

It is time for people to get really worked up about this.

Don't EVER pull over for one of these may be a cops without being in a visible, public place.

In Washington, be even more careful, because there are all the more secret police there and according to reports we have received, the cops there are not trustworthy during personal encounters. We know for a fact that in at least one case, a Washington officer was extremely disrespectful to a young woman from Salem and he pulled her over in an angry state after tailgating her for miles. She had lost her child the week before.

I don't know what degree of BS they have been allowed to get away with in Washington or what specifically has that led to this, but they are all over the place in that rainy state driving unmarked cruisers the Gestapo would have been proud to operate. reports that since 1923, California has outlawed the police tactics upon which many other states rely to conduct speed traps. One key provision of this statute prohibits traffic police from using any vehicle not distinctively marked. In most cases, this means the traditional black and white design."

In May 2008, California's Justice M. Kathleen Butz cited a 1991 decision explaining the legislature was "motivated by a desire to eliminate clandestine methods of traffic enforcement designed to augment local revenues through exorbitant fines."

People in Oregon and Washington deserve the same realistic policy. Write to your senators and state representatives and tell them you demand accountability from police. Tell them to ban the use of unmarked cars for traffic enforcement. Bring police out of the shadows and make them work for the taxpayers who provide their salaries in the first place.

This video from YouTube was reportedly shot in Portland, Oregon:


Here is one of the videos suggested in our comment section:

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Anonymous September 17, 2020 7:36 am (Pacific time)

Brayden I know I'm very late on this topic, but this article is ignorant. Unmarked cop cars have a purpose. Don't drive like a jackass,you don't have to worry about being pulled over. Speeding is more dangerous to my family than an unmarked police car.

LES August 8, 2013 12:25 pm (Pacific time)

SLO, what day were you pulled over? I was pulled over on I-5 just after I had entered the freeway and the Marion county police officer said that I was doing 64 in a 55 but he was NEVER in his car, he was handing the person he had pulled over a ticket, and then he lied to me stating that he "radared" me. I called him a liar and that's when things went south, he knew I called his bluff. I'm trying to find the person he had pulled over just west of Lancaster but before the I-5 on ramp. I'm currently putting together a case against him and the county and need help in finding the person he had pulled over.

SLO July 27, 2013 9:15 pm (Pacific time)


allergictostupid April 20, 2010 8:26 am (Pacific time)

Whining about DUI checkpoints? Really? And unmarked cars? Don't drive drunk, and the DUI checkpoints won't be a big deal to you. Don't drive like Mario Andretti and you won't get pulled over, unmarked or otherwise.
I vote, that all those who whine about the various ways cops do their job should NOT get to call 911 when their sorry butt needs some help.

Editor:  "Just do as the man says" - is that what you like to hear?  Sounds pretty obnoxious right, like a dose of taxpayer funded fascism?  "Pay the tax man and then say "please" when you call the cops... what a load of crap.  I'm glad the system in this nation isn't designed by you pal.  Siberia beckons you, I hear cops can really get away with a lot there. 

chris April 30, 2009 3:30 pm (Pacific time)

I think your article in regards to unmarked police cars was way over the line. with the unmarked cars on the road it makes people think twice before driving down the highway at breakneck speeds. It doesn’t just slow them down when they see a cop. Its lows them down because they don’t know where the cop may be and they don’t want to get a ticket. As for money cops see about 10 cents per every hundred dollars of the tickets they write. So they aren’t just out to get more money. They are out to protect the sane drivers of the world from the insane drivers. As for the safety factor the cops driving the unmarked vehicles no they are driving an unmarked vehicle. And if they try and stop you and you don’t feel safe all you have to do is slow down turn your four ways on and call 911 and tell them you won’t pull over until a marked police car is there and the dispatcher will send another unit out to you before you have to pull over. So to get rid of unmarked cars would just give every bad or insane driver the freedom to drive how they want and kill anybody they want cause they know there isn’t a cop around. Why don’t you drive like a good driver and you won’t have to worry if the car next to you is a cop or not.

Mike April 13, 2009 7:08 pm (Pacific time)

ROFL at Lou. Some people were sent to entertain us.

Lou April 12, 2009 10:38 pm (Pacific time)


What should drivers do at night, smart guy? Drive around til the sun comes up so they can see it's a marked police car? You sure have a lot of time on your hands!!

Tim King: I don't know, what do you think you should do?  Do whatever you think you should do.  I think the prey of the fake cops who are empowered by unmarked traffic enforcement programs aren't looking for you;  they're looking for defenseless women most of the time.  I assume that doesn't describe you.  I guess you could say you aren't the target market of the article in a way.  Of course you could get pulled over and robbed or any number of things.  I criticize this type of police work because it leads to questions like yours having to be asked in the first place. 

Jim April 11, 2009 5:10 pm (Pacific time)

I don't see anything wrong with traffic enforcement officers driving unmarked vehicles. I would say about 80% of the time that I am on the road there is always someone driving like a jack*ss. Having unmarked vehicles around would have the public think twice about driving stupid and if anything it would make the roads SAFER. About plain clothes officers, they're usually detectives and hardly make a traffic stops unless absouletly necessary.

James April 10, 2009 9:27 am (Pacific time)

There are two very differnt things occuring here and I'm sure Mr. King would agree. As I watch the video reportedly shot in Portland it is clear that this is not a traffic stop. As you see the officers walking around in tactical vests and thigh holsters I would venture to say this was a drug related take down with plenty of pre planning on the part of the officers. I would agree that working a routine traffic detail in an unmarked car in plain clothes is a bad idea but that does not happen in Marion or Polk Counties. Plenty of unmarked cars but the officer is always in uniform. Before someone protests, I will say that in rare occassions you will have a detective make a traffic stop in plain clothes but itwould need to be a pretty serious violation with some public safety concerns.

Tim King: James, I would also say that I'm not worried about the safety of people being pulled over by authentic unmarked police cars; I trust real cops.  I added the video you mentioned after the story was published and I do believe that you are probably right in that it is a drug takedown

Regarding your other point, I know that on occasion a detective is in an unmarked car and happens to be called into service and if that was once in a blue moon, then it probably wouldn't make print in any way.  The uniform worn by OSP troopers in their unmarked cars help a great deal, though that isn't easy to see through a shaken driver's rear view mirror.  At any rate, this is not a cop-bashing story and clarity is appreciated.  The Yamhill operations are the most concerning that I know of in the Willamette Valley. 

Jeremiah April 9, 2009 9:29 pm (Pacific time)

Tim: That's pretty ballsy of you to pull over and take a photo of that unmarked OSP vehicle making a traffic stop. I'm surprised the cop didn't feel threatened by you and/or cite you for one of the many violations that can be handed out at the whim of the officer. If that's I-5, I'm pretty sure it's illegal to pull over on the side of the road for non-emergencies, but I could be wrong. BTW, I was pulled over by an officer in an unmarked Washington County vehicle for having a license plate frame that partially covered the plate tags. That's real good police work there, Mr. Lawman, cuz there's no telling what kind of laws I would be breaking today if not for the corrective action taken by the alert officer. I've had a strange fascination ever since then, noticing that about 1 out of every 10 vehicles on the road has a license plate frame that partially or even entirely covers the tags. BTW, that was a $325 ticket. Fortunately, the traffic judge in WA County was very reasonable and threw out the fine when I showed up in court to contest it. Surely, there's better use of precious tax dollars and public servant resources than the ridiculous nature of my infraction.  Bottom line: unmarked cars should not be used for routine law enforcement. Just because it's a slow day on the road doesn't mean officers should be pulling people over anyway. When you think about it, they're simply creating an infraction where one wouldn't exist under normal circumstances. Bottom line: Government, in all its forms, is being given more access to infringe upon the personal lives and liberties of Americans. If this doesn't bother you, then you obviously don't understand where that ultimately leads to.

Tim King: Jeremiah, I was actually doing a ridealong the day this photo was taken, it was when I was still with KATU.  The OSP troopers and officers doing this work are not the ptoblem in my opnion, they are certainly part of it, but I am far more concerned about the message it gives would-be police impostors.  So, thanks for the compliment, but this wasn't the gutsy act you suggested, thanks anyway. 

also April 8, 2009 3:09 pm (Pacific time)

It should also be mentioned that the State Legislature is currently considering dredging up DUI checkpoints - an act which is so clearly contrary to the Constitution that it is as if there were no Constitution at all.

Editor: Thanks for making sure our visitors know about this.  We did cover that also, here is the report: Do Oregon Politicians Want a Police State? - Political Perspective Tim King

Mike Loomis April 8, 2009 1:25 pm (Pacific time)

Enough is enough, it is sad that we have to look to California to see rational policy but we do. Oregon is rainy and depressing and growingly fascist. Washington is like a disease. I wouldn't stop for an unmarked cop either, unless the conditions were perfectly safe. This has to stop!

steve (Alice) April 8, 2009 9:26 am (Pacific time)

Well if people would not speed, and hide drugs and a open bottle or can in their carS uncle charlie would not be watching!so am all for the ck. points...maybe we will get the 1s who dont have a lic.or Ins to Drive in the first place that kill people...(mad)Look @ the lady going 103 mph with her grandson in the car and work for the DMV!then thy should go into homes next! u would prob be surprise!

YouDoHaveRights April 8, 2009 9:11 am (Pacific time)

To Are You Kidding: "Red light cameras, great idea. The only people that need to worry about it are those who run reds"--We'll be in the police state control grid soon with people like you just begging for it. You don't see a problem with cameras watching you all day? WOW...some people are just born to be slaves. Can you please not try to take away MY rights at least?, even if you don't want yours.

Jeff April 8, 2009 7:40 am (Pacific time)

This is a revenue generating operation. OSP uses very few unmarked cars for aggressive driving only. Marion County traffic team is out to make money only. And where do you seen them? The freeway. Not on the county roads.

Daniel Johnson April 7, 2009 11:46 pm (Pacific time)

To give a perspective from Canada. Yes, we have unmarked police cars doing traffic enforcement. But when you look closely at the cars you can see the flashing light bar mounted in the back window and the flashing lights mounted in the grill. They are also generally the same make and model as regular police cars--just no markings. The police in the cars are always in uniform (albeit, no caps which they put on when they step out of their vehicle), never in plain clothes, so that if you get pulled over there is no doubt whatsoever that you are being legitimately stopped. Now as far as the issue of entrapment is concerned: I have no sympathy for the excuse that people use that boils down to: "I didn't know I was being watched as I sped, changed lanes without signalling, etc." There is an element of Big Brother to this, but if people do not obey traffic laws and by their disregard endanger the lives of everyone else how else can we maintain public safety as much as possible for everyone the road?

Mike H. April 7, 2009 10:14 pm (Pacific time)

By the way, Tim, thanks for everything you do. You made a great site and I have been visiting for quite some time now. I repost links on myspace to get the word out about the news from my area. I am from Salem as are many of my friends that I am trying to refer to this site. Hopefully, they forward it too, and everybody will know about this sort of nonsense and we can make changes. Once again, thanks.

Are You Kidding April 7, 2009 10:02 pm (Pacific time)

To Sean O'Hannity : I really hope you were being facetious. My opinion : This has got to be a joke. I really respect the police but these tactics are ridiculous. Red light cameras, great idea. The only people that need to worry about it are those who run reds...Tell ya what, you wont see me pulling over for an unmarked car anytime soon. If I drive 5 miles to have to get home, I will. If i get pulled out of my car at gunpoint, so be it. At least I will know it is not some goon trying to rob me. I noticed they put up a 35 mile an hour regulatory sign up recently just off the exit from I-5 onto Keubler Blvd. I wonder how many tickets they will hand out for that, seeings how it has been a 45 zone for years. We all know these are just "clever" ways to generate revenue.

allan April 7, 2009 8:53 pm (Pacific time)

2 years + ago, in Corvallis:

Cop imposter pulls woman over, police seek clues

Editor: Thank you so much for this link; here is the first part of it:  

"Investigators are seeking clues about a man who posed as a police officer and stopped a Corvallis woman Monday evening, the Corvallis Police Department said Tuesday.

The woman was driving on N.W. Walnut Boulevard when she was pulled over by the man, who had placed a rotating red light on the top of his vehicle.

The suspect then approached the woman and said her vehicle had been reported stolen. He told her to exit the vehicle.  

Instead, she became suspicious and rolled up her window as the man tried to open her door.<.i>

She drove away unharmed and later told police about the incident."  

To James April 7, 2009 8:10 pm (Pacific time)

Cop Rams Minivan Full Of Kids
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A Wisconsin man who was jailed after a Minnesota state trooper rammed his van put pencil to paper to calculate his damages.

Sam Salter spent two days in jail after a traffic stop that the State Patrol said this week was mishandled. Salter suggested a $9,500 settlement, saying he was "not interested in making money off this event."

Salter was arrested on New Year's Eve along Interstate 94. A state trooper rammed his car after Salter didn't immediately pull over. Salter had his three children in the van and said he was looking for a safe place to stop.

Salter, of Hudson, says he included $2,200 in body work to his van, plus the traffic ticket and impound fee he paid. Then he added the money he would have been paid for the 37 hours he spent in jail, plus some for the time his wife spent trying to get him released.

Finally, Salter added several thousand dollars for aggravation and expected attorney fees. (it was all caught on officer's dashcam, but the video seems like it went down the memory hole.

Tim King: Thanks James, I was able to find the video and add it tp the story. 

EyeoftheTiger April 7, 2009 6:15 pm (Pacific time)

The KC metro area has had several fake cops pulling people over and checking ID’s in the past year. Hell, one even posed as a DT and checked a security officer credential at a bank. Alot of police departments are trying to save money by just putting a bunch of strobe lights on cars. The overheads make drag when driving. Also, companies who sell the sleak new overhead light bars brag that they are not visible until the lights are lit and the vehicle is converging their direction of travel. It is an officer safety issue to pull someone over in an unmarked civilian looking vehicle.

James April 7, 2009 5:44 pm (Pacific time)

Sorry, I can't get behind what you are saying here. Never has an unmarked police vehicle caused a person to commit a traffic infraction. The rule of thumb should be to never do anything on the road that you wouldn't do if there was a police officer right next to you. If you don't feel safe pulling over for an unmarked turn on your flashers and acknowledge that you see them before proceeding to a safe place to stop. Every day people are trying there hardest to "get away with something" and thankfully the police are thinking outside the box to catch the violators.

Tim King:  Thanks for sharing your opinion James.  I am going to add a little here to clarify and the link will take you where you can see the video.  You are looking at this from another angle; I don't suggest that police don't have the right to think out of the box, for the record.  The problem is that police aren't always patient when people wait to pull over into a lighted area for safety.  This behavior from police trains and conditions drivers to always submit to a red light.  It is wrong and I sincerely believe that  Another issue is that there are many parts of Oregon and Washington where cell phone service is restricted or unavailable.  Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts in a constructive way.


This is from

"Motorists followed by an unmarked car with flashing police-style lights are often told to activate their flashing emergency lights and wait for the nearest well-lit area before pulling over. An attractive young female motorist who followed this advice found herself held at gunpoint, handcuffed and searched by real police officers in Greene County, Missouri last week. Just before 2:40am on June 5, twenty-two-year-old Vanessa Kimery passed through one of the state’s many speed traps. An unmarked police cruiser pulled behind her vehicle and activated its lights. Kimery immediately put on her flashers and slowed to acknowledge the vehicle behind. She then drove less than a mile to the nearest well-lit area, a convenience store parking lot. For this, Kimery was ordered out of the car at gunpoint and surrounded by three police deputies.

Kimery had feared that the unmarked car may have been driven by a police impersonator. Exactly one year ago, two women were attacked in Howell County by by a man driving a Ford Crown Victoria with red-and-blue lights mounted on the dash. Several other states have similar problems with robbers and rapists taking advantage of police use of unmarked cars to trap their victims on dark, rural roads." 


also April 7, 2009 2:44 pm (Pacific time)

The relatively recent change that makes it a violation to fail to move out of a contiguous traffic lane, when possible, if a police vehicle has a car pulled over is another example of a politically motivated and cowardly police policy.Having to make a quick decision while driving 65 MPH is clearly dangerous and the normal risk to officers who pull people over clearly does not exceed the danger resulting from the new policy.Another abuse of power is the growing red light camera usage. Salem is planning (probably without public input) to add 3 more red light cams. It is easy money for the City but has little or no effect on safety. The economic impact on working people is often severe. The cost of the ticket, the potential need to appear in court, and the insurance ramifications are some of the predatory effects of this money making scheme.

John April 7, 2009 2:33 pm (Pacific time)

Entrapment, I personally would not stop for an unmarked, I would drive to a police station or Possibly drive home. Scenario, lets say lights come on I don't stop officer ensues. Finally I stop in my driveway or police station, what if I do not believe him when he says he is a officer, and I feel threatened and pull a gun on him? I really respect police but this is plain stupid.

Sean O'Hannity April 7, 2009 2:18 pm (Pacific time)

This is silly!  The only things that matter in America are following the law, and doing what you are told by your elders.  By the way, Limbaugh, O'Riley and Savage all follow me.  I am the big boy in the crowd, and don't you little losers forget it!  Remember, down with the poor, fight for more rights to be stripped from Americans, and for God's sake get out and protest abortion.  People forget what is important.  Silly idiots wanting things like peace and love, what a joke!  We republicans don't bother with that nonsense.  Also, what was so bad about fascism anyway?

ExcellentPoints April 7, 2009 12:44 pm (Pacific time)

The policy actually SACRIFICES public safety, in exchange for ruthless efficiency. (Using ways that are arguably illegal) The system is becoming very cannibalistic and self destructive to it's customers. That is not what people need, especially in this time of great hardship.

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