Q: I saw a person being pulled over by an unmarked vehicle with lights and sirens. The vehicle was the same make and model as a standard police car, but it did not have any police markings on it. In this type of incident, how can citizens be sure that it’s a real police officer pulling someone over and not someone pretending to be one?

A: Police officers use many different types of vehicles for the varied jobs they perform. Not all police vehicles are the same, but the law remains the same: if a police vehicle with a solid red light and siren is trying to pull you over, you must pull your vehicle over in a safe spot and wait to be contacted by the officer. The officer may or may not be in uniform, but should be displaying some sort of uniform marking, like a police jacket, or badge identifying him or her as a police officer or deputy sheriff. If you have a question as to whether the person is an actual police officer or deputy, you should ask to see their identification card.

Identification cards are required to be in the officer’s possession while working. The identification card can be different with each police department, but in Santa Monica they will have the city of Santa Monica seal, job title (like police officer), a picture of a police badge, the officer’s name and serial number, and the chief of police’s name. If the officer can’t show you their identification card, you should ask for a supervisor to respond to the scene. The supervisor will be able to verify the officer’s identity. Please remember to be courteous and not argumentative, and allow the situation to become stable before asking for identification.

Q: I’m new to Santa Monica and I’m not familiar with the smoking laws. Can you let me know where people are prohibited from smoking; I don’t want to get a ticket or upset people unknowingly.

A: I appreciate the effort you’re going through to not violate our smoking laws and be respectful to the citizen’s in our city. Not only did I include the prohibited locations, but also the definitions so there are no misunderstandings. Section 4.44.020 of the Santa Monica Municipal Code reads:

It is unlawful to smoke in the following places: Any elevator, any public park, any public beach; anywhere on the Santa Monica Pier; any outdoor service area; inside any public building; any outdoor dining area; within 20 feet of the entrance, exit or open window of any building open to the public; the Third Street Promenade; any Farmers’ Market; the property of any public library.

The following words and phrases, as used in this section or in any other applicable law regulating smoking, shall have the following meanings:

Dining area. A non-residential location where food or beverages are served by a business or routinely consumed by customers. This includes, but is not limited to, restaurant or bar seating areas and patios.

Santa Monica Pier. The Santa Monica Pier, consisting of both the Newcomb Pier and the Municipal Pier, protruding from the Santa Monica State Beach at the southwesterly terminus of Colorado Avenue, and extending for approximately 2,135 feet into the Santa Monica Bay.

Service Area. A place where people use or wait for services provided by a private or government entity. This includes, but is not limited to, bus stops, ATM lines, information kiosks and theater lines.

Smoke or Smoking. The carrying or holding of a lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, or any other lighted smoking product or equipment used to burn any tobacco products, weed, plant, or any other combustible substance. Smoking includes emitting or exhaling the fumes of any pipe, cigar, cigarette, or any other lighted smoking equipment used for burning any tobacco product, weed, plant, or any other combustible substance.

Q. I got a ticket for not having my insurance in the car with me. I told the officer I would call my insurance agent, but he wouldn’t talk to the agent over the phone. Why can’t he just talk to the agent?

A. California Vehicle Code 16028(a) requires the driver of a vehicle to provide a peace officer with evidence of financial responsibility for the vehicle they are driving. You should always keep current evidence of financial responsibility in your vehicle. Not only to provide the officer upon demand, but also to provide to the other driver(s) should you get into in a traffic collision. Plus, your agent won’t always be available to call at all hours and the officer can’t verify over the phone who they are talking to.

This column was prepared by NRO Scott Pace (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate 10 to Ozone Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or scott.pace@smgov.net.

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