I was not aware that the police learn a technique known as the precision immobilization technique (PIT) by which they can cause another car to go out of control and even flip over. You would think that such a dangerous maneuver would be used only in extreme situations when it is essential that the car be stopped and there is no other alternative. But we see in this case an Arkansas state trooper doing this to a car that it had targeted for speeding and which had slowed down down and turned on its flashers when it saw the police lights, a sign that the car driver was planning to stop and was looking for a safe place to do so. But after waiting less than two minutes, the police did the PIT maneuver and as a result, the car flipped over. It turned out that the driver Nicole Harper was pregnant.
TW: Police violence
Enraging. Arkansas Officer Rodney Dunn flips over Nicole Harper’s car—while she was pregnant—b/c “she didn't pull over quick enough.”
He’s still a cop & faces 0 consequences b/c of qualified immunity. Unacceptable.pic.twitter.com/1c82qKeA2h
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) June 9, 2021
PIT maneuvers can be tremendously dangerous; most agencies restrict them depending on the circumstances, and officers are supposed to weigh whether it’s worth the risk.
At least 30 people have been killed during PIT maneuvers nationwide since 2016, and hundreds of others have been injured, according to a Washington Post investigation last August. Eighteen of those deaths came after an officer attempted to stop someone for a minor traffic violation, including speeding. [My italics-MS]
In Harper’s case, she was severely injured as a result of the maneuver, according to her lawsuit. She was covered in “hellacious” bruises, Norwood said. And, at two months pregnant, she feared the worst. After rushing to the emergency room, Harper went to bed the evening of the accident convinced that her first child was dead, though an OB-GYN picked up a heartbeat the following day. The child was later born healthy.
“If done properly, it’s a really good maneuver, and it’s a safe maneuver,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina. “But unfortunately we see too many times PITs being done at high speeds, in the wrong environment, and on wrong vehicles.”
In Harper’s case, she seemed to do everything right, making the PIT used against her “a really outrageous example,” Alpert said.
“If you look at the video, there are barriers on both sides of the road with a reduced shoulder,” Norwood told VICE News. “There’s no exit or widening of the narrowed shoulder from the time he starts his lights until the time she’s upside down.”
Norwood noted that even Arkansas’ “Driver’s License Study Guide” recommends that drivers activate their “turn signal or emergency flashers to indicate to the officer that you are seeking a safe place to stop.”
It seems like police think that anything other than immediate groveling compliance even in the aftermath of minor offenses is an act of lese majeste that justifies the use of any force at their disposal. So someone running away even after some non-violent incident is shot. Someone who is mentally disturbed and does not immediately respond to a command is shot. And a driver who does not immediately stop has their car flipped over.
Harper is suing the police but because of the doctrine of qualified immunity, it will be tough getting justice.