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This Is The PIT’s.

Nicole Harper was traveling along an Arkansas highway when she was “lit up” by Arkansas State trooper Rodney Dunn, who wanted to stop her for allegedly going 84 mph in a 70 mph stretch of highway.

Harper, who was pregnant, slowed down and put on her hazard lights. She indicated that she was going to stop and was looking for a safe place to stop.

Seems reasonable to us.

After all, who wants to stop on a dimly lit road by some car that you cannot see whether it is an official police car?

It is much safer for both officers and citizens to find a well lit area.

Arkansas State trooper Rodney Dunn disagreed.

Following what she understood to be standard safe procedure in this situation, Harper moved into the right lane, slowed down, turned on her hazards to indicate to the officer that she understood what was going on, and was seeking a safe shoulder or exit to pull over.

No sane person could have imagined, given Harper’s behavior, that she was involved in any active attempt to escape the raw justice of a speeding ticket. Fewer than two or three minutes had passed since the cop first turned on his lights.

Corporal Dunn was having none of that. Using an insanely dangerous strategy that police in Arkansas are using more and more—144 times last year, double the number of times the year before—he slammed into her SUV causing her to hit the concrete median, flipping her SUV. The practice, called the “precision immobilization technique” (PIT), killed at least three people in 2020.

NBC affiliate station KARK highlights the conversation between Dunn and 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.”…

Dunn can be heard saying, “no we don’t anticipate vehicles rolling over nor do we want that to happen.” He went on to say, “all you had to do was slow down and stop.”

Harper responded, “I did slow down, I turned on my hazards, I thought I was doing the right thing.”

She was very literally doing the textbook right thing, according to Arkansas driver’s license test guides. (emphasis ours)

If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” one must wonder the value of Dunn’s dash camera which shows Harper was slowing, and was acknowledging the lights on the police car. She was doing the safe thing – for both Dunn and her – that the State of Arkansas had taught her to do.

Harper is suing Sr. Cpl. Dunn, his supervisor Sgt. Alan Johnson and Arkansas State Police Director Col. Bill Bryant.

The suit claims the highway left Harper with, “no room to safely pullover” because the shoulder was too small. It goes on to say Sr. Cpl. Dunn “negligently” used a PIT maneuver which put harper’s life and the life of her unborn child at risk.

According to the lawsuit Arkansas State Police “failed to train” Dunn on “proper and safe PIT maneuver technique,” failed to “investigate allegations of excessive force,” and “failed to discipline officers for violations of policy related to excessive force.”

The Arkansas State Police issued a statement on this case:

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.

– Colonel Bill Bryant (emphasis ours)

Where to begin?

Whether 52 percent of drivers choose to ignore traffic stops is irreverent here. Harper had slowed down and activated her hazards. She wasn’t fleeing.

She also wasn’t “pull[ing] 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.”

While we don’t disagree with Bryant statements as to how some drivers act, Harper was not one of those drivers. She was acting responsibly, and responding to the lights of the police car.

Furthermore, Bryant says that drivers are to safely pull off the road when the officer activates their lights.

If that is the case, then why did Dunn feel the need to PIT her? She was doing exactly what the police said she should do in being safe.

Just last year, Arkansas State Police were involved in a horrific crash after a PIT maneuver was initiated by an officer. Justin Battenfield was driving a truck and failed to pull over after allegedly running a stop sign. Battenfield took off at speeds reaching 130 mph and traveling into oncoming lanes of traffic. The Police used the PIT maneuver to cause the Darwin award winner Battenfield to be killed in the resulting crash in which the police car went flying through the air.

As horrific as that crash is, it highlights the difference between running from the police and putting others into danger, and what Harper did which was not run, acknowledge the officer’s lights and begin to comply by pulling over.

Dunn and the others being sued may have the case dismissed because of “qualified immunity” because as some people have noted, there is no law or Constitutional stated right not to have the police cause a crash, while flipping a SUV and its pregnant driver onto the its roof.

This is a case where the police acted badly and should be held accountable.



2 Responses to “This Is The PIT’s.”

  1. ruralcounsel says:

    The trooper and the ASP colonel both need to be handed their walking papers. The first for shear stupidity and deliberate endangerment when it clearly wasn;t necessary, and the second for just shear stupidity and CYA behavior by making totally irrelevant and material statements.

    This is why mainstream America is willing to turn on law enforcement. We may be better off without them.

    • AAfterwit says:

      ruralcounsel,

      Thanks for the comment.

      The decision to PIT the woman’s car was wrong. We don’t think that the action can be defended other than there have been incidents where people have taken off, or indicated they were stopping and then taking off, or a host of other things. It was clear that that defense is not applicable here. The cops we know tell us that the two most dangerous situations for them are calls for domestic violence and traffic stops. Cops are normally on edge and the media attention of highlighting only the suspect actions of cops makes it seem like all cops are bad or as you put it, that “we may be better off without them.”

      There are literally millions of interactions between the police and citizens on a daily basis. The vast majority – even when the cops themselves are abused, threatened, and even assaulted – we don’t hear about.

      We are not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say that we would be better off without cops.

      We have stated many times that we would like to see cops held to a standard and that union influence on that standard and discipline for violating that standard needs to go away. We have also said that good cops need to stand up to and against bad cops. We even go further and say that such things as “law enforcement bill of rights” passed by many states (including Florida) that give police special protection that the normal citizen does not get when being investigated, need to be repealed. We also maintain that “qualified immunity” needs to be restricted and at the very least looked at the legislative level or at the Supreme Court level.

      None of our options include getting rid of cops altogether.

      The reason is simple: all professions have bad actors within them. Every year we read about doctors who commit malpractice. Should we abolish doctors? Should we get rid of teachers because some of them are either horrible teachers or take advantage of their students sexually? No more teachers?

      We are not willing to say that cops should go away because of some bad cops anymore than we are willing to say that bad actors in our chosen occupations means that the occupation itself needs to be abolished. In short, we aren’t willing to demand of others what we aren’t willing to implement ourselves.

      There are bad cops. There is no doubt about that. But the vast majority of cops are good men and women. We need to help and encourage the good cops to kick out the bad ones.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      A. Afterwit.

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