I-TEAM: Understanding Arkansas State Police’s controversial pursuit strategy

An exclusive look at Tactical Vehicle Interventions: A dance with danger
Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 9:56 PM CDT
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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) — Arkansas State Police (ASP) has been employing Tactical Vehicle Interventions (TVIs), often referred to as PIT Maneuvers, in a contentious yet crucial strategy to apprehend suspects fleeing law enforcement.

Though laden with risks, this method has become integral to the ASP’s pursuit tactics.

As the debate surrounding TVIs continues, the officers of ASP stand firm in their commitment to ensuring the safety of Arkansas citizens, even if it means putting their own lives on the line.

“We engage for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to stop it,” said Mike Hagger, Director of ASP and Secretary of the Department of Public Safety. “We teach our guys there is a clear priority of life, and we take that very serious. That priority being the innocent citizens of the state of Arkansas, number two on that chain is the trooper or the law enforcement officer, and number three on that chain is the suspect.”

This method’s intricate dance between risk and protection is at the heart of ASP.

Troopers are trained to swiftly execute TVIs during high-speed pursuits, a strategy that often ends in abrupt halts.

Training for this high-stakes tactic occurs at Camp Robinson’s track, a simulation of the diverse roads that ASP troopers patrol. Annual re-certifications follow the intensive two-week training during trooper school.

Inside a speeding vehicle about to be intervened, troopers demonstrate a symphony of strategy: approaching the car, making contact, and bringing it to a halt. This calculated maneuver is a ballet of steel orchestrated with precision.

Hagger’s message, however, is one of gravity, acknowledging the audacious act of confronting danger at high speeds.

“We are risking people’s lives. It is a very unnatural and unsafe to go up and intentionally make contact with a vehicle at 100 miles per hour. Yet, our troopers will do that because they understand the priority of life. It is not about the suspect who put themselves in that situation or the trooper who chose to be in the situation. It is about stopping the suspect to protect all of those people who did not choose to be in that situation.”, Hagger stated.

Each scenario is unique, yet the objective remains constant: to prepare troopers for high-stress situations, making TVI training a lifeline amid chaotic pursuits.

“You train like you fight because you’re going to fight like you train,” Hagger asserted. “As long as you’re following a pursuit and not doing anything to intervene, it is like following an active shooter in the mall or a school and hoping they’re a bad shot.”

ASP’s policy manual dictates the use of TVIs when it’s “objectively reasonable.”

Factors such as speed, the presence of children, or hostages are evaluated before implementing this technique.

The upward trend in TVI deployment is evident from statistics provided by ASP. The incidents rose from 52 in 2018 to 83 in 2019, significantly increasing to 166 in 2020, 132 in 2021, and 157 in 2022.

The proliferation of TVI-related videos on social media mirrors the surge in its use.

Requests for video content surged in 2022, with more 2,698 appeals, including 600 for commercial purposes. This uptick in demand prompted a substantial investment of over 4,100 person-hours reviewing footage, amounting to an expenditure nearing $100,000.

Hagger’s intention was not to promote these videos.

“It certainly was not what we were looking for. The only good thing I hope that comes from that is people know to not run from the state police. It is not a game to us. At all. It is not entertaining to us,” Hagger clarified.

ASP remains committed to balancing public safety and risk management.

If a fleeing suspect poses a threat akin to the pursued individual, disengagement becomes paramount.

Hagger said he tells his troopers “If you become as much of a danger to the public as the suspect who is fleeing, then it is time to get out.”

Behind each maneuver lies careful consideration—a judgment call balancing public safety with uncertainty. The next move by a speeding suspect could be fatal, and ASP troopers work relentlessly to avert such potential tragedies.

Hagger concluded, “What if it is not a near miss? What if the next car they pass on the shoulder, the next intersection they go through, that is your family, that is my family? That is people that didn’t ask for this.”

ASP said many of the TVIs performed are done in cases where troopers are just assisting another department.