The media has gone whole hog into investigations of use-of-force situations involving the police over the past several years, but that agenda has been ramped up considerably since the death of George Floyd. Every police shooting is scrutinized (as it should be, and that’s standard policy in every department) but it goes much further. Chokeholds are supposed to be banned as some sort of exercise in evil. Using tear gas on violent crowds is regularly described as a “military tactic.” And now the Washington Post wants to open up another standard police tactic for criticism by examining the PIT (Precision Immobilization Technique) maneuver.
You’re probably familiar with the technique. A speeding vehicle that refuses to stop for the police is bumped on the side from behind by the patrol car. This typically leads to the vehicle spinning out, allowing the cops to end the pursuit and arrest the driver. Of course, sometimes it can go wrong.
The WaPo begins with a story from 2017 involving a police officer in North Carolina who sees a Dodge Caravan blasting past him at high speed. Inside are a 15-year-old boy at the wheel, his 16-year-old sister, her 15-year-old boyfriend and another 15-year-old friend. The van had been stolen from the driver’s mother, though the WaPo describes it as having been “taken without permission.” After the police officer pulls the teens over once and gets out of his patrol car, they race away again. The van crossed the county line doing 100 miles per hour. At that point, the officer performed a PIT maneuver to bring the chase to an and. The van rolled, killing two of the teens and permanently injuring another.
Since 2016 at least 30 people have died, and hundreds have been injured — including some officers — when police used the maneuver to end pursuits, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.
Out of those deaths, 18 came after officers attempted to stop vehicles for minor traffic violations such as speeding. In eight cases, police were pursuing a stolen car, and in two, drivers were suspected of serious felonies. Two other drivers had been reported as suicidal.
Ten of the 30 killed were passengers in the fleeing vehicles; four were bystanders or the victim of a crime.
Half of those who died in the crashes were people of color: nine Black, four Hispanic and one Native American. Fourteen of those killed were White, and the race of two could not be determined.
The WaPo goes on to invoke George Floyd, of course, describing the PIT maneuver as “a potentially deadly use of force by police.” That’s technically true because people can and do die in traffic accidents all the time. But this isn’t the sort of thing that’s employed on a whim by the cops. No police officer goes out on the job hoping they’re going to be called on to smack their own vehicle into another one during a high-speed chase. Police officer can wind up dead just as easily as suspects, and too many of them have.
But what are the police supposed to do? In the first example cited above, the van was blowing down the highway at illegal speeds being driven by someone too young to be an experienced driver. They broke 100 miles-per-hour. It was only a matter of time before somebody wound up being injured or worse. The pursuit had to come to an end. The same applies to virtually every case the Post digs up to use as examples. The majority of cases where the PIT maneuver is used take place at much slower speeds, frequently below 50 mph. And those are the ones where it typically goes according to plan.
What exactly is it that the authors think the police should do instead? Just as in the case of a fleeing, armed suspect, I suppose we’re supposed to tell the cops to just let them disappear into the night rather than risk someone being injured? It’s the same situation as when everyone was demanding an end to chokeholds. When you have a violent suspect who is physically fighting the police and can’t be placed in cuffs, would it be better if they just shot them? Or should they, again, simply let them escape because they are “too difficult to arrest?”
We’re not far from the point where somebody will insist that officers not raise their voices during an arrest for fear of offending anyone. And perhaps that’s the end goal for liberals. If you can’t manage to entirely ban the police, put so many restrictions on them that they can’t do their jobs. What a wonderfully peaceful society we’ll be living in after that, eh?