Within the past few days, we got a police report of a woman, driving by herself, getting pulled over on Route 248 near Palmerton by who she thought was a police officer.

The "cop" asked for her credentials. She suspected it wasn't a real policeman so she declined, at which time he displayed a revolver.

The woman was fortunate enough to speed away without further incident.

It's not the first time there have been complaints about fake police officers terrifying innocent motorists usually women.

Not all the creeps have been caught. Those who do get arrested usually don't get much punishment.

Considering the severity of the crime and the potential harm that can occur, this is unfortunate.

Consider:

Ÿ A 62-year-old man from Weatherly was arrested for impersonating a sheriff. He got ARD treatment.

Ÿ An 18-year-old Coaldale man got arrested for impersonating a police officer. He, too, received ARD in Carbon County Court.

Ÿ Two years ago, an 18-year-old girl was walking alone along a road in Penn Forest Township when approached by Randy Merriman, who identified himself as a state trooper. He wasn't one. In fact, he had made the same claim directly to a state trooper.

Charges of impersonating an officer were dropped against Merriman in a plea agreement. He is in state prison, but he's doing time on a weapons charge, not the impersonation charge.

The only way to deter reckless action is to make the perpetrators pay consequences for their actions. This should include jail time.

For starters, legislators should demand that ARD cannot be a permitted resolution for an impersonation charge.

On an aside to motorists, if you are driving and a police officer attempts to pull you over, call 911 if you're not sure the officer is legitimate.

Also, a provision in the Motor Vehicle Code allows you to continue driving at the posted speed limit with lights flashing until you reach a safe spot such as a lighted area or populated location to pull over.

The number of incidents involving fake police officers and subsequent traffic stops is increasing.

Police equipment including vehicle lights and badges can be purchased online without identification.

The result is a lot of wannabes get them and then think it is fun to try them out.

Also, there's no telling what the perpetrator has in mind when he demands identification from a driver especially a single female.

Courts must take impersonating an officer more seriously. Giving ARDs or approving plea agreements indicates it isn't being given the stern treatment it demands.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com