BREMERTON, Wash. -- The Washington State Patrol got a report of a man impersonating a police officer after a woman said that someone flashing a "Sheriff" sign had motioned for her to get off her cell phone while driving. It turns out the "impersonator" was a fire investigator.
The fire investigator told the state patrol that he was responsible for the impersonation scare. He apparently was trying to get a woman to stop talking on her cell phone while driving.
The investigator was driving home Monday in his work vehicle, a gold 2007 Ford Expedition, when he saw a woman talking on her phone, he told troopers. He motioned at her to get off the phone, according to Trooper Krista Hedstrom, and held up a sign that said "Sheriff" on it to show his position of authority.
The woman did not believe he was a cop. She exited the highway and called 911, prompting the state patrol to ask for the public's help in finding the SUV.
The fire investigator saw news reports about the alleged impersonator and realized they were about him, said Sgt. John Urquhart, a spokesman with the King County Sheriff's Office. The investigator called troopers to let them know.
As a fire investigator, Urquhart said, the man has a "limited police commission." He can conduct arson investigations and arrest arson suspects, for instance, but he cannot make traffic stops or perform other law enforcement duties.
Urquhart said the man flashed his lights and sounded his siren at the driver and motioned for her to get off her phone but did not attempt to pull her over.
"It was a visual warning," he said.
The fire investigator's duty vehicle is unmarked, Urquhart said, but includes a siren and police lights in its grill and on the visor inside.
Urquhart said the sheriff's office will conduct an administrative investigation to determine if the man will face any discipline.
(Josh Farley is a reporter for The Sun in Bremerton, Wash.