Ask a Cop? Why so many police cars?

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Question:

I have both witnessed and experienced during traffic stops, multiple patrol cars will stop once a vehicle has been pulled over. Almost without fail, a second patrol car stops and that officer will engage the driver in conversation. This seems an obvious safety practice as well as a potential investigative tactic. But what purpose does four, five or more serve? And do officers document their presence at stops for which they are not actively involved in the act of assessing and enforcing alleged infractions?

For context, I was pulled over for a faulty headlight. During the stop, I was asked to get out of the vehicle and asked to wait away from my vehicle. While I was detained but not under arrest, four additional patrol cars pulled over with most but not all of the officers getting out of their vehicles and engaging in unrelated conversation with each other during a 45 minute period until a sixth patrol car – a K-9 unit – arrived and sniffed my car but yielded no “hit” whereupon I was allowed to leave without being issued so much as a warning. This was despite  having expired registration and no insurance and the faulty headlight, all of which I had admitted to prior to being asked to step out of my vehicle.

Answer:

This is a great question, thanks for asking it. There is a lot to it. Let me break down the question, I am sure at some point we wrote about this on the site but heck even I cannot find it now.

I have both witnessed and experienced during traffic stops, multiple patrol cars will stop once a vehicle has been pulled over.

– This is totally normal

Almost without fail, a second patrol car stops and that officer will engage the driver in conversation.

Does not happen all the time, but bigger cities for sure. In my old department I would not have a cover up to 30 min on a stop in some cases

– Hey are you “code4” (cop talk for all good or ok)
– Where are you going for dinner
– Need any help?
– Are we going to need to search the car?
– You working OT tonight?
– Etc

This seems an obvious safety practice as well as a potential investigative tactic. But what purpose does four, five or more serve?

  • Usually this only happens if something strange came back when the plate was run, or the car might match a suspect vehicle, or you might just be lucky enough to have your non related twin be a axe murderer. 4 or 5 cars is not normal, unless asked for. In most cases you need 2 to search a vehicle safely, maybe a 3rd being a Sgt if a supervisor is needed. Or to deploy special weapons but these days most cars are rolling with less than lethal guns etc.

And do officers document their presence at stops for which they are not actively involved in the act of assessing and enforcing alleged infractions?

  • Sometimes, if just passing by they might not, but usually if they stop they advise they are off with the other unit as cover etc and everything is logged in the computer systems these days.

For context, I was pulled over for a faulty headlight. During the stop, I was asked to get out of the vehicle and asked to wait away from my vehicle. While I was detained but not under arrest, four additional patrol cars pulled over with most but not all of the officers getting out of their vehicles and engaging in unrelated conversation with each other during a 45 minute period until a sixth patrol car – a K-9 unit – arrived and sniffed my car but yielded no “hit” whereupon I was allowed to leave without being issued so much as a warning. This was despite  having expired registration and no insurance and the faulty headlight, all of which I had admitted to prior to being asked to step out of my vehicle.

  • Were you handcuffed?
  • Was someone else watching you and standing with you?
  • I assume this was in a larger city?
  • I would guess they were looking for someone or you matched the description of someone in the area that might have been selling drugs. 45 min wait sucks but that can easily be the timeframe to get a K9. That said I assume your honesty helped you in this situation. And not being a jerk.
  • One thing to know is that there is always more going on than you will be told.
  • When we used to have stuff like this happen I would normally try to keep the suspect / detainee in the loop unless they were under arrest. This usually lead to many fewer complaints. But if it was me and they are doing good police work I can be inconvenienced for 45 min to make sure the bad guy gets caught. That said it still can suck.

Hopefully that helps – I assume the other were there just in case, they also could have been part of a special team that moves from one incident to another covering each other – Drug special enforcement teams work separately from general patrol officers in some cases.

In the end it looks like you left with a clean slate and hopefully you got the headlight fixed so not allow that to be a reason to be contacted in the future.

CopTalk.info
Staff

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