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Arkansas State Police settles lawsuit over pursuit maneuver

by The Associated. Press | November 20, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas State Police agreed to limit how a maneuver where troopers intentionally bump a car during a pursuit can be used under a tentative legal settlement announced Friday by attorneys for a woman injured when a trooper caused her vehicle to flip.

Attorneys for Janice Nicole Harper said state police agreed to the policy change in its use of the "precision immobilization technique," or PIT maneuver, as part of its settlement in the lawsuit Harper filed earlier this year. State Police confirmed the agreement.

The suit alleged that Harper slowed down, activated her blinker and emergency lights and was looking for a safe place to pull over after trooper Rodney Dunn initiated a traffic stop in July 2020. Dashboard video from Dunn's cruiser shows the trooper performed a PIT maneuver, about two minutes after initiating the stop.

The new policy, released by Harper's attorneys, says the maneuver should only be used when an officer believes it is objectively reasonable to protect a third person or an office from imminent death or serious injury, or when the officer objectively believes other exigent circumstances exist

"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," Andrew Norwood, an attorney for Harper, said in a statement. . "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."

Joshua Cook a spokesman for Harper's attorneys, said the settlement included a "modest financial component" but did not disclose how much. State Police Spokesman Bill Sadler said the department expected the agreement would be finalized next week.

"The Arkansas State Police periodically initiates revisions to its pursuit policy to ensure it is consistent with applicable case law and existing training related to the PIT maneuver," a statement from State Police said. "The department has consistently required its troopers to apply an objectively reasonable standard when using the PIT maneuver and will continue to do so."

State Police said that Dunn had been disciplined after an internal review found that he failed to comply with the agency's use of force policy in performing the maneuver.


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