Police assistance

Driving to work today, I saw a pulled-over van and a cruiser with lights flashing. ANother cruiser was pulling into the parking lot (lights off), and I passed another further down cruiser heading to the lot, also with lights off.
What type of circumstance cause a cruiser to ask for backup like that? Is an arrest always imminent? Are other cops called if the situation is suspicious, and the first cop wants another pair of eyes?
How do cops respond, just whomever is closer? Do they need certain ranks there to proceed with an arrest?

Vans - particularly windowless vans - are tricky, as the officer has no way of gauging how many people are inside. There could be several reasons for the additional cars:

  • behaviour of the van before the stop, or stopping for something other than a typical traffic violation.
  • things are slow and/or near shift-change time, and cars back each other up when possible as a matter of routine (this happened frequently on my city PD gigs)

Also, the stopping officer may have called for a drug sniffing dog, a female officer, a breathalyser, etc.

It could also be that it was a slow crime day, and everybody decided to go see what Bob was up to.

My father, a 20 year veteran of the police force, says that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

The last time I was pulled over, 3 cruisers showed up for what was a very simple registration violation, and I swear they were all just standing there for 20 minutes or so just shootin’ the shit. Granted, they were probably waiting on the results of my background check or whatever, but it still kind of annoyed me.

Very possible.

25 year veteran here and your old man is right. On a slow day an officer is as busy as he makes himself, and sometimes that means getting in on a stop that was someone elses.

I’m on the swing shift this month (8pm-4am) and usually it’s busy as hell (DUI’s and such). But tuesday night it was storming and the streets were dead. All the shitheads must have stayed home. The radio was silent most of the night.
Then at about 0300 I stopped to do a welfare check on a handicapped man I noticed sitting on a bus stop bench for a long period of time (buses end on that route at midnight).

4 more units showed up!

But better to have a lot of back-up and not needed it than to need it and not have it!