PIT Maneuver Used for Traffic Stop
(AR) – A video has been released showing a crash, caused by an Arkansas State Trooper, that happened in July 2020. Janice Harper, who was pregnant, had been coming home from seeing a movie. She sped passed Arkansas State Trooper Rodney Dunn. Trooper Dunn turned on his lights and Mrs. Harper immediately slowed down and moved to the right-hand lane.
The highway had a reduced shoulder that Mrs. Harper felt was too narrow to pull over safely on. She turned on her flashers as she continued to drive to an exit. Trooper Dunn follows Mrs. Harper for just over two minutes. At one point, he pulled along side of her, shining his lights in her eyes, blinding her. Trooper Dunn then performed a PIT maneuver that sent Mrs. Harper’s car out of control, causing it to flip.
Law Enforcement Resorts to Victim Blaming
This video is a perfect example of victim blaming that law enforcement uses when they have used excessive force. Trooper Dunn almost immediately begins admonishing Mrs. Harper. He asks her why she didn’t stop. She says it was because she didn’t feel it was safe, he responds “Well, this is where you ended up.” It goes downhill from there. Dunn keeps insisting that she should have pulled over immediately, saying her actions were wrong.
Norwood argues that the trooper not only used excessive force but also executed the PIT maneuver improperly, because the move should not cause a car to flip. He says Harper was following the state driver manual’s instructions for people pulled over by law enforcement: Move to the right side of the road and use your turn signal or emergency lights to show police you’re looking for a safe place to stop.
This has a disturbing abuser aspect to it that is frequently seen in law enforcement. Basically it’s ‘you made me do this to you’ and ‘it’s your fault I had to hurt you.’ People who counsel domestic violence victims know that pattern all too well. Remember, this was over a traffic stop. He endangered her life over a stupid speeding ticket.
Director Defends Trooper’s Actions
The director of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety, Colonel Bill Bryant, supported his officer’s actions. He released a statement citing the increase in numbers of people running from traffic stops. He says the language is clear that a person is supposed to stop. At one point he does say they are supposed to safely pull off the roadway. (I think that will work against him in court). He says the PIT maneuver is one of their tools and blames the fleeing person for not stopping.
There are some problems with his statement. First though, he should remember the name of his agency. It’s the Arkansas Department of Public Safety. PUBLIC SAFETY! The PIT maneuver is one of DPS’s tools, but using it for traffic stops does not promote the public’s safety. The purpose of a PIT maneuver is to make the person lose control of their vehicle. It’s an extremely dangerous maneuver that has killed people and should not be used casually.
The Arkansas DPS is a state agency. The state driver’s manual specifically says to do what Mrs. Harper did. Shouldn’t Colonel Bryant’s officers know this is what people are told to do by the state? Mrs. Harper performed the actions the state said she was supposed to. It was Trooper Dunn’s lack of knowledge that caused him to overreact and use excessive force.
Mrs. Harper was not fleeing, yet they continue to insinuate that she was. One of her tickets was for Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle, which is blatantly false. In fact, it’s practically slanderous.
Civil Lawsuit Filed, Claims Negligence
Mrs. Janice Harper has filed a civil lawsuit. Those named are Trooper Dunn, his supervisor, Sgt. Alan Johnson, and the Director of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety, Colonel Bill Bryant. The lawsuit is for excessive force and negligence. Per THV 11, “‘Dunn executed a negligently performed PIT maneuver which flipped the [woman’s] vehicle and placed her life and the life of her unborn child at risk,’ the lawsuit said.”