Police in unmarked cars can easily sneak up on motorists violating traffic laws. Citizens were outraged when a photo of a silver van with police lights apparently pulling over a driver was posted on Facebook by a group called “Anonymous Indiana.”
The caption on the photo read: “Sneaky sneaky… watch out on the road guys.”
However, things weren’t as they seemed. Not only was the vehicle actually an unmarked crime scene van, its driver, Sgt. Trent Smith of the Indiana State Police, had stopped to help a stranded motorist, The Indy Channel reported.
"With current public opinion of law enforcement at a low it is frustrating to find inaccurate reports and volatile comments on social media but it seems all too common,” Smith said, arguing that it’s all too easy to jump to conclusions sitting in front of a screen.
The comments on the photo were largely critical of the police and their use of unmarked vehicles. “This is exactly why this stupid state and the morons that govern it should make it a law that ALL police vehicles need decals and lights on top,” Facebook user Mark Lunsford wrote.
Kenneth Pulverenti agreed: “With all the problems of unmarked cars, lawmakers should make it a law that all police enforcement's should have clearly marked cars.. Citizens shouldn't be treated as if they are prey by law enforcement officers and feel threatened!”
Some commentators pointed out that the caption on the photo was misleading, as was the image itself. “Thats an ISP crime scene van,” commenter Chris Wilson wrote.
“That's the issue with drawing conclusions without all the facts. All they show is a van with red and blues behind another vehicle on the side of the road. Not seeing the whole picture. Hard to tell what's going on out of the frame.”
The state police have said the criticism hasn’t made Smith any less eager to protect and serve.