According to KATV News, back in July 2020, an Arkansas state trooper used the PIT maneuver to stop a driver who was allegedly refusing to stop for him. The trooper allegedly clocked the driver at 84 in a 70-mph zone. When he activated his emergency lights, the driver, 39-year-old Nicole Harper, failed to pull over and stop.
After failing to stop for the trooper, he used the PIT to stop her car. Now, “Harper is suing [the trooper] for using a PIT and causing her car to flip on Highway 67/167 in July 2020. Harper was pregnant at the time of the crash.” She alleges the PIT amounted to assault and battery, and excessive force. She’s also fighting a citation for refusing to stop, claiming it’s “malicious persecution.”
“In the complaint, Harper claims she could not safely pull over her car due to concrete barriers and a reduced shoulder, so she put her hazard lights on. In just over two minutes, she said [the] Trooper… used the PIT maneuver on her vehicle.” Drivers shouldn’t get to decide where to stop; the cops should, but the laws from state to state can be tricky. Cops provide drivers a clever clue where to stop. It’s where they turn on their blue flashing lights.
Officers must consider several factors when drivers don’t stop. First, cops don’t know the drivers or the reasons they’re not stopping. It could be an innocent reason. However, cops do not know a driver’s intention. Cops must err on the side of a criminal reason the driver isn’t stopping.
Harper made several complaints and assertions as to why she didn’t stop and what she did instead. She switched on her flashers, slowed down, but she kept driving. Two minutes is a long time in the context of a traffic stop.
This is where things become legally cloudy, and the state legislature may want to clear up what is expected both of cops and drivers. The Arkansas code prohibits people “fleeing” from the police on foot or in a vehicle. However, the Arkansas Driver License Study Guide advises drivers to “Pull over to the right side of the road –activate your turn signal or emergency flashers to indicate to the officer that you are seeking a safe place to stop.”
This raises an obvious question: At what point does “seeking a safe place to stop” become “fleeing” the police?
Arkansasonline.com said Harper’s suit claims, “Barely two minutes passed between [the trooper] turning on his lights and siren and ‘ramming’ his cruiser into her.” How long should he have waited? For every moment the driver fails to stop, other drivers on the road are at risk. Again, the trooper doesn’t know the driver or why she isn’t stopping. Also, at 84, 70, or even 60 MPH, the driver would travel two miles or more in two minutes.
She also cites the trooper’s action against her amounts to malicious prosecution. She believes she had “good reasons” for not stopping. But, again, for how long should a police officer follow a driver, overhead lights activated with at least a siren chirp or two and then a wail when the officer has already indicated the place to stop?
Unless the Arkansas State Police issues crystal balls or x-ray glasses to troopers at the academy, how would he possibly have known she was pregnant? Even if he knew, are pregnant women now exempt from obeying the law?
“Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office is defending [the] Trooper… in the… lawsuit against the officer brought by…” Harper. The trooper’s lawyers say his decisions “were based upon probable cause and reasonable cause, were those of an objectively reasonable officer and were in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and state law.”
“Harper said she filed the lawsuit hoping to prevent this from happening to anyone else.” Forget anyone else. How could Harper have possibly prevented it from happening to her? She could have just stopped.
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