LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Attorneys for an Arkansas woman who was pregnant when she said her car was flipped by a state trooper performing a controversial PIT maneuver during a traffic stop have announced a settlement in her lawsuit against the state.
The firm Denton & Zachary, PLLC, announced its client Janice Nicole Harper has reached a settlement agreement in her case against the Arkansas State Police that will lead to policy changes on the use of Precision Immobilization Techniques, or PIT, maneuvers.
This settlement comes after a series of FOX 16 Investigates stories.
These maneuvers involve law enforcement officers using their vehicle to strike a fleeing car, causing it to spin out of control and conclude the pursuit.
As part of the settlement, the ASP has had troopers undergo additional training after learning of the PIT maneuver used on Harper.
“We are extremely pleased that we were able to secure the policy changes and updated guidelines pertaining to the use of PIT maneuvers which was the primary goal of this case and will help protect all Arkansans moving forward,” attorney Andrew Norwood said. “While Mrs. Harper will undoubtedly need time to recover from the psychological trauma she suffered after the PIT maneuver in question, she is excited to close this chapter of her life and focus more on her family.”
Records show that ASP trooper Rodney Dunn attempted a traffic stop for speeding on Harper while she was driving south on U.S. Highway 67 / 167 in Pulaski County on July 9, 2020.
Dash camera video showed Harper slowing down and turning on her hazard lights, and she said she was looking for a safe place to pull off the road, which had concrete barriers alongside the highway.
Several minutes later, the trooper conducted a PIT maneuver, which resulted in the plaintiff’s vehicle crashing. At the time of the crash, Harper was two months pregnant.
After reviewing video footage of the incident and PIT maneuver in question, Harper’s attorneys said they learned that every one of the trooper’s superiors determined the situation reflected a violation of ASP policy related to the PIT maneuver.
The ASP, as part of the settlement agreement, has agreed to change its Use of Force policy as it relates to PIT maneuvers and institute an “objective standard” required to justify the maneuver’s use versus the previous “subjective standard.”
The change means the previous restrictions on using PIT maneuvers, such as in cases involving trucks carrying hazardous materials or larger vans or buses, will now be expanded. The new threshold moves the standard for use to when a trooper trying to “protect a third person or an officer from imminent death or serious physical injury.”
In a statement sent Friday afternoon, ASP noted that Dunn, a 27-year veteran of the agency, remained an active trooper in the Highway Patrol Division.
The agency noted that troopers have seen the number of pursuits in central Arkansas increase by more than 170% from 2016 through July of this year, saying that increase means more risk to “innocent Arkansans.”
State officials also said the department “periodically initiates revisions to its pursuit policy” and that the department, “has consistently required its troopers to apply an objectively reasonable standard when using the PIT maneuver and will continue to do so.
Both Harper and her attorneys said they hope the dash camera video footage of this encounter can be utilized as a training tool for troopers to indicate what not to do in similar situations and help ensure this does not happen to another Arkansan.