Houston police will begin using the Precision Immobilization Technique, or PIT maneuver, which was developed in Germany as an anti-terrorist tactic. Last year, 13 people in the city died in high-speech chases in 13 weeks.
In an effort to end deadly high-speed chases, the Houston Police Department will allow officers to use a controversial driving maneuver that they hope will stop fleeing motorists before they threaten others on the road, the Houston Chronicle reports. Chief Art Acevedo announced that officers would begin using the Precision Immobilization Technique, or PIT maneuver, which was developed decades ago in Germany as an anti-terrorist tactic. “We’re doing this because the safety of our officers matters to us — the safety of our community really matters to us,” Acevedo said, “And then the safety of the suspects matter as well.” Houston police have engaged in more than 4,000 vehicle pursuits since 2012, leading to injuries for 32 officers, about 1,000 innocent victims and 6,000 fleeing suspects. On average, five people died every year in pursuits. Last year, 13 people — including a police sergeant — died in high-speed chases over a 13-week stretch.
To execute the maneuver, officers drive next to a fleeing suspect, match the car’s speed and then nudge the rear corner of the vehicle behind the back wheel. If done properly, the maneuver forces the fleeing vehicle to spin out safely and stop, causing little damage to either vehicle. When used at high speeds or with narrow vehicles that have a high center of gravity, however, the maneuver can cause vehicles to roll over, leading to injuries and fatalities, experts said. “PIT maneuvers are really important tools for police, but they’ve got to be done right and in the right conditions,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina who has studied police pursuits.