How closely can you make your car look like a police car, and still be within the law, in your country/state?

How closely can you make your car look like a police car, and still be within the law, in your country/state?


How closely can you make your car look like a police car, and still be within the law, in your country/state?First off, I don’t encourage this for ethical reasons. But let’s say I bought a white Crown Victoria, and painted part of it black. Then, for novelty, I put a light bar on the top and tinted the windows. At what point am I crossing the line to impersonating a police officer?

In Sweden, the rules seems to be; “as long as you don’t pretend to be a police”.
Somehow, this is OK

For a time, It was driven around by the leader of the organization Bandidos. The police wasn’t too happy about that. I don’t think they ever drove this with the sirens though. 

I knew a newspaper photographer, who had bought a used police car (Ford Crown Victoria) at auction. He repainted it white and installed a pair of regular truck indicator lights on the back deck, a spotlight, and an aftermarket scanner antenna. It looked just like this:

Even the cops thought it was a cop car.

In California you cannot have the words police, sheriff, or law enforcement printed in a way that would cause a reasonable person to think the vehicle belonged to said agency, and one cannot have a functional,  forward facing red lamp.
In my area I’ve seen cars that look nearly identical to the sheriff’s department squads (All white with green striping and a gold seven point star with Sheriff in large letters after the star) but instead have “blah blah SECURITY” printed in inch and a half tall letters above and below the seven point star and an amber light bar instead of red and blue.
I’m not sure if they have to be licensed by the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services to have a car that looks that similar, but I’ve also seen people driving black and white crown vics with spotlights on the sides still.
In Norway? THIS close:

(Idioti is Norwegian for idiocy!)
This guy was stopped, and threatened with having his numberplates removed. However, it wasn’t technically illegal, so he was eventually sent on his way. It is not known whether his car still looks like that (but I think it was probably just a one-off stunt).

In California I came across two men with uniforms, two-tone bubble helmets, Riding pants, Black boots and basically a California Highway Patrol CHP uniform with different words but the same essential layout even of the badges. The motorcycles were the same brand and size and paint scheme… just no blue and white lights… They were “traffic patrol” and since they were not yet mounted (waiting for a funeral procession to begin) I asked pretty much your question about their bikes and uniforms.
They said they had special permits, could only use these motorcycles for this private traffic management gig and if they did anything but escort there was big legal trouble for them. Many of them were off duty cops he said. I said something along the lines of, I wonder how much closer a uniform could get, assuming we get to see you at highway speed, and not be reasonably confused for the real deal. It was not quite misspelling California – a little more distinct than that, but not much.
“Oh it’s legal sir.”
“I’ll bet it is, and I’m glad we don’t use public money for private funeral processions, and I get how helpful it is to be immediately understood as an authority on the road… but I’ll bet it would be a hard to beat a “color of authority” addition to any charges given how close the look is to CHP bikes and uniforms… have a safe ride.”

When I was 17 I actually bought myself a used police car (I thought it was cool at the time). It was a 2001 crown Vic with 158,000 miles on it. It was all black, had black steel wheels, and spot lights on either side of the windshield. It didn’t have any red and blue light bars or the front bumper bar. To my understanding, you can’t ever use red and blue lights, use the spotlight, or have any police decals but you can have the front bumper and antennas (if you desire). Despite not having lights or front bumper, it was the real deal man. I can’t tell you how many times people slowed down and moved over for me because they thought I was a cop. There was one time I was on the highway driving behind an SUV for several miles and the person driving actually slowed down and pulled over because they thought I was a cop. I kept on driving of course but I felt pretty bad about that. As far as tinting the windows, you can do that but there’s a certain percentage you can’t exceed before it becomes illegal. I’m not sure what it is or if it varies by state.

I had to get rid of the car eventually. Once it hit about 180,000 miles it was one problem after the next. Once I started smelling gasoline inside the cabin, that’s when she had to go. In the 3 years I had it, I was never pulled over because it looked like I was driving a police car.

From the places I’ve lived, you can have the color scheme on a Crown Vic without issue.  You can even have a light-bar, but you’ll be told to turn it on or go to jail the first time you are pulled over, and if you turn it on, they’ll impound your car.  If you put on a light bar, pull the bulbs, and leave it obviously not connected to power.

I had a friend who had his daily driver mounted with a red light bar.  He was constantly hassled.  Of course, he was also a member of the voluntary fire department for the area and had permission to have the light bar on, so long as it was only used when he was responding to an emergency call, but once you get out of the area where everyone knows you, it’s a cop magnet.  They’ll pull you over just to ask why you look unusual.

But you’ll be in serious trouble if it could pass for a police vehicle.  That would include “police” or other wording on the sides, government plates (real or otherwise), or anything else that’s impersonating the police.

But a cop color scheme, and cop equipment on a car would draw attention, but wouldn’t be illegal anywhere I’ve lived, so the answer may depend on jurisdiction.

In the UK, the main sticking point is the use of blue lights and reflective material. Only genuine emergency service vehicles are permitted to be equipped with blue lights (whether operational or not) and blue reflective tape on the bodywork. I believe it’s also technically illegal to have POLICE written on the car.
In practice, there are owners of vintage and imported police vehicles that are quite obviously not a current police vehicle. For example, there are a couple of people who own ex-NYPD vehicles that no one would mistake for the real British police. Generally, as long as you obey the traffic laws and do your bit (e.g covering the blue lights when on the public highway) the real police will leave you to it. Unless they’re curious and want to have a look at your car.
Forward facing blue lights is illegal in all States.
Jessie Vigil’s black-and-white sports car(top lights don’t work)
Law enforcement agencies say what he’s done with his car isn’t illegal as long as he doesn’t act like a police officer.

There would be no problem with painting it like one, police sell their cars, still painted like a police car. The Domino’s Pizza down the street from me has a delivery driver that drives a former police car, that still looks exactly like a police car minus the light bar and Police emblems on the doors here in Oklahoma.

I don’t know if it requires any type of license, but security guard vehicles are often painted to look like police cars, or are former police cars with a light bar on top. However, they are yellow lights. Until relatively recently only emergency vehicles were allowed to have red and blue light bars, but in recent years I’ve seen an increase in trucks that have red and blue lights that are related to highway maintenance.  (After reading a comment about forward facing blue lights being illegal in all states, I’ve never noticed if these trucks have any lights facing the front, they may only be in the back.)

I am not aware of Texas law on the matter, but a few years ago my girlfriend’s uncle had a friend who bought a retired police vehicle that still had everything on it, light bar and all. I don’t if they are not required to remove it, or if his just somehow slipped through the cracks.

How about take a real police car and drive it around anyway, pretending to be official? Well, it was an emergency fire dept car, same thing. The local building inspector decided to be important and drive the vacant fire chief SUV with emergency responder lights and repainted it with “CODE ENFORCEMENT” like that was something special. He got stopped a few times and finally a State Police Officer impounded the vehicle, thankfully.

In Germany, this close. That said, I haven’t seen many  police caravans around.

I took this picture in a small town near Hamburg.

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