By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Even though you should always stop when police flash the blue lights, some people are skeptical about doing so on dark roads.
When Laura Whitehurst was blue-lighted on a rural, dark road in New Albany recently, she wasn’t sure if she should stop or keep going until she found a more populated area. Whitehurst said she decided to keep moving, which angered the pursuing deputy.
“I was alone, it was dark and I was not comfortable stopping on that road so I just drove slowly until I made it to a little store about three miles down the road,” Whitehurst said. “When I did stop he was furious. He told me I was trying to run from him and said he could take me to jail for failure to stop. I was only trying to protect myself.”
Even though she said the officer calmed down and was very nice to her after she explained her reasoning for not stopping, Whitehurst said still felt uneasy about the situation and wanted to know what should she have done to make the situation better.
Union County Sheriff Tommy Wilhite said he doesn’t mind if a person riding alone drives to a more lit area, but said he wouldn’t want them driving 10 miles away from the officer.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said even though you should always stop for police, he understood Whitehurst’s reasons for not doing so.
“It’s sad people feel like they have to protect themselves at all times and things are to the point where even stopping for blue lights can be dangerous,” said Carleton. “But we want people to feel safe and to be cautious, but there’s a way to do it.”
Carleton said Whitehurst could have put her blinkers on to let the officer know she saw him and drove the speed limit to a place she felt more comfortable. She also could have called 911 to let then know where she was and that she was being pulled over and that she was driving to a safer location.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said his deputies are trained to wait until a person is in a clear area before stopping them.
“We want to make sure the person we’re pulling over is safe and also the deputy,” said Johnson. “So it’s just as important for our guys to make sure they are in a well-lit area as well. We don’t have a lot of people in our area impersonating police, but if you deal with someone and aren’t sure, just call us.”
Because flashing blue lights can be purchased, Carleton said people being pulled over should pay close attention to the lights. He said if the lights are just flashing in the headlights then a person should be skeptical. But if a blue bar is flashing from the top of the car then that usually means it’s a legitimate officer pulling you over.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.