LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Video out of Arkansas is receiving a lot of attention Thursday, and it’s something FOX16 Investigates showed you last month.
The video is of an Arkansas State Police trooper trying to pull over a pregnant woman for speeding and minutes later, using a PIT maneuver to spin out and crash her SUV.
FOX16 Investigate’s Susan El Khoury uncovered how this tactic is happening more often on Arkansas highways.
PIT maneuvers are becoming more common as a way state police forcibly stop fleeing drivers.
In the video that has gone viral, the driver says she is not fleeing but is trying to find a safe place to stop, and that is why she is now suing state police.
Dashcam video from the trooper’s patrol car shows as soon as the blue lights go on, the driver, Nicole Harper, slows down and moves into the right lane.
Harper then turns on her hazards, which is what the Arkansas State Police “Driver License Study Guide” instructs drivers to do when there is not a safe place to stop.
Harper is suing state police, claiming the PIT maneuver on her vehicle was negligent and using excessive force.
In hundreds of police records obtained by FOX16 Investigates, state police tried or used the PIT maneuver at least 144 drivers last year. This is double compared to the year before.
Of the 144 PIT maneuvers, three people were killed. One of the deaths was a passenger.
Arkansas State Police have since changed its policy. Now, any PIT maneuver that leads to serious injuries or death will be referred to the prosecutor’s office, and the trooper involved will be placed on administrative leave. Those were not requirements before this year.
When asked for a comment, Arkansas State Police referred to the statement they issued in May.
In that statement, Director Colonel Bill Bryant explains how PIT maneuvers are happening more because more people are fleeing, and in every case, it is up to the fleeing driver to stop.
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
This story has also caught the attention of lawmakers. Last week, members of a joint committee that oversees Arkansas State Police told Working 4 You they want state police to answer questions about how it is using PIT maneuvers.
Lawmakers say they have not set a date but are working on it.