LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — An Arkansas woman claims she was trying to find a safe place to pull over and stop when a Arkansas State Trooper used a PIT Maneuver that caused her car to overturn on the interstate. The PIT maneuver, or Precision Immobilization Technique, is used to immobilize a vehicle engaged in a pursuit. Senior Corporal Rodney Dunn used the technique after he attempted to stop the Nicole Harper for speeding. Dash Cam video shows Harper turning on her flashing lights and pulling over to the right lane.
Claiming that she was trying to find a safe place to stop on a section of interstate that has a reduced shoulder, Harper intended to pull over at the next exit, but she never got the chance.
According to Fox 16, less than two minutes after turning on his blue lights, Dunn performed a PIT maneuver, which caused Harper’s car to crash into the concrete median and flip. Harper was pregnant at the time.
Trooper Dunn’s microphone picked up the conversation with Harper.
“Why didn’t you stop?” Dunn questioned.
“Because I didn’t feel it was safe,” Harper said. Dunn responded, “well this is where you ended up.”
Harper went on to say, “I thought it would be safe to wait until the exit.” Dunn said, “no ma’am, you pull over when law enforcement stops you.”
“I feel like I had heard that’s what you do, you slow down, you put your flashers on and you drive to a safe place,” Harper explained.
According to the Arkansas State Driver’s Manual, it appears that Harper did exactly what she was supposed to do. Under the section, “What to do When You Are Stopped,” the first step says to use, “emergency flashers to indicate to the officer that you are seeking a safe place to stop.”
Harper has filed a lawsuit against Arkansas State Police, claiming the PIT maneuver was negligent and excessive use of force.
Fox16 also stated that the Arkansas State Police rejected several requests for interviews about what happened in Harper’s case and about PITs in general. However, State Police Director Colonel Bill Bryant sent the following statement.
Over the past five years, Arkansas State Troopers have documented a 52 percent increase in incidents of drivers making a conscious choice to ignore traffic stops initiated by the troopers. Instead of stopping, the drivers try to flee. In more populated areas of the state, the incidents of fleeing from troopers have risen by more than 80 percent. The fleeing drivers pull away at a high rate of speed, wildly driving, dangerously passing other vehicles, showing no regard for the safety of other motorists, creating an imminent threat to the public.
The Arkansas State Police began using the Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) over two decades ago. Trooper recruits while attending the department’s academy receive comprehensive initial training in the use of PIT. All incumbent troopers receive recurring annual training in emergency vehicle operations which includes PIT instruction.
There’s a fundamental state law none of us should ever forget. All drivers are required under Arkansas law to safely pull-off the roadway and stop when a police officer activates the patrol vehicle emergency lights and siren. The language of the law is crystal clear. Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle displaying the signal to stop, the driver must pull-over and stop. *(see Arkansas statutes ACA §27-51-901 & §27-49-107)
Should a driver make the decision to ignore the law and flee from police, state troopers are trained to consider their options. Based on the totality of circumstances a state trooper could deploy spike strips to deflate the tires of the vehicle being pursued, execute a boxing technique to contain the pursuit slowing the driver to a stop, execute a PIT maneuver or terminate the pursuit.
Most Arkansas State Police pursuits end without a PIT maneuver being utilized.
PIT has proven to be an effective tool to stop drivers who are placing others in harm’s way. It has saved lives among those who choose to obey the law against those who choose to run from police.
In every case a state trooper has used a PIT maneuver, the fleeing driver could have chosen to end the pursuit by doing what all law-abiding citizens do every day when a police officer turns-on the blue lights – they pull over and stop.