by René Tankersley, feature editor
Have you ever heard of a KIT stop? Neither had owner-operators Barry and Rae Ann Lorenz, who learned about KIT stops the hard way when they ran into some problems while driving through Shelbyville, KY. They were stopped, pepper sprayed, pulled from their truck and arrested on charges of resisting arrest, refusing to comply with a police officer's orders, refusing an inspection and holding the left lane.
The acronym KIT stands for Kentucky Intervention Traffic stop. In a KIT stop, the law enforcement officer contacts the driver over the CB radio and has the driver bring his/her paperwork back to the patrol car.
The evening of March 8, 2000, the Lorenzes were hauling their loaded tanker eastbound on Interstate 54 in Shelby County, KY, on their way home to North Carolina. Rae Ann was driving while Barry slept in the sleeper of their 2000 International 9400I 72 Hi-Rise Pro-sleeper.
To avoid some rough spots in the road, Rae Ann pulled into the left lane. Then, a car came up fast behind the truck, moved to the left and then to the right and flashed its high beams. Rae Ann wasn't sure what the vehicle behind her was going to do, so she waited until she knew the car was staying behind the truck. Then she signaled and returned to the right lane. The car behind her turned on its blue lights. As she pulled over, she woke up Barry.
Rae Ann waited with her hands on the steering wheel in plain sight and her seat belt still buckled, as she was taught in truckdriving school. She expected an officer to come to her door and ask for her paperwork, but instead this person was waving a flashlight up and down at the rear of the trailer. Then, a man's voice came over the CB radio, "Trimac, do you have your radio on?"
When Rae Ann replied "yes," the unidentified man then told her to bring her paperwork and come to his car. Barry took the CB microphone and answered back that his wife would not leave the truck, but the officer could see the paperwork in the truck.
"I was having doubts about his identity at this time due to the way he was acting, as it was contrary to the actions of any other law enforcement personnel that I have had dealings with," Barry explained.
The Lorenzes say the still unidentified man came up to the driver's door, shined his flashlight in Rae Ann's face and screamed, "I told you to come back to my car."
"I could not see his uniform due to the flashlight shining in my eyes and my head was down trying to clear my vision," Rae Ann said. Barry then stuck his head out of the bunk and repeated, "My wife is not going back to your car. I will be glad to give you any paperwork you need."
The Lorenzes say the man then threatened to arrest her for not following his orders and for refusing an inspection. When Barry explained they were not refusing anything, the man threatened to arrest him too. Barry asked to see the man's supervisor before things went any further.
"With that this person jumped on the first step and reached over me and sprayed by husband in the face with pepper spray," Rae Ann said. "My husband stumbled back onto the bed and this person grabbed my left arm and tried to pull me out of the truck, saying, 'I told you to go back to my car.'"
"My husband grabbed my right arm to pull me back in and told him, 'I told you she is not going back to your car.' This person jumped up on the next step of the truck and sprayed my husband again in the face. At this time he pushed me off the driver's seat into the floor. My legs were between the seats and my upper torso was in the bunk area. This person jumped over me, knocking off my glasses and tackling my husband in the bunk, and sprayed him again. This time I got some of the drifting spray in my mouth and down my throat."
Barry added that the man tackled him in the sleeper screaming, "I'll show you who is in charge here."
"I asked him if he was nuts and he stated to me that 21 highway patrolmen had lost their lives and he wasn't going to be 22," Barry said. "He never asked for paperwork when he was beside the truck. All he was concerned about was getting my wife out of the truck and into his car."
The officer, who still had not identified himself, handcuffed Rae Ann, told her she was under arrest and placed her in his car. She says he did not "Mirandize" her, nor did anyone at the police station at any time during this incident. Barry also was arrested and was not read his rights.
"By now, another officer (Sgt. John Edmondson) showed up and attended to my husband who was standing outside in his underwear," Rae Ann said. "This other officer let him get dressed and gave him his glasses."
Edmondson was the supervisor Barry initially had requested. He identified the arresting officer as Martin Mattingly, Unit 432 of the Kentucky Division of Motor Vehicle Enforcement. Barry said Edmondson, now a lieutenant, was "very cordial" and advised him to make a formal complaint against Mattingly.
The Lorenzes were transported to the Shelby County Jail in separate squad cars and kept in separate cells for 12 hours. Both say they were not allowed to make a toll-free call to advise their company of their situation until the next morning. Barry also says he was not allowed to wash the pepper spray from his eyes.
Rae Ann was cited on charges of holding the left lane, refusing to comply with a police officer's orders, resisting arrest and refusing an inspection. Barry's charges included refusing to comply with a police officer's orders and resisting arrest. Both Rae Ann and Barry refused to plead guilty. Their trial has been postponed four times by the prosecution and is currently scheduled for February 2001, almost one year after the incident.
Rae Ann's nightmare didn't end there. In a medical report, her psychiatrist noted that Rae Ann had at least two instances of anxiety attacks after she was released from jail.
Dr. Victor M. Rosado's assessment concluded that Rae Ann was experiencing an acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In her written statement, Rae Ann explained the emotional and physical effects of her arrest.
"As a result of this episode, I am on nerve medication, high blood pressure medication and under the care of a psychiatrist for acute [PTSD]," Rae Ann said. "I was unable to drive for seven weeks ... I still have panic attacks at the sight of blue lights and used to have them at the sight of uniforms. That is getting better."
Cpt. Joe Scott of Kentucky's Motor Vehicle Enforcement said officers could not comment on the case because it is still in court. Shelby County Prosecuting Attorney could not be reached for comment.
State police prefer traditional traffic stop methods
The Lorenzes say if they would have known about this "KIT stop" procedure, maybe they would not be accused of resisting arrest. Are these intervention stops something new that state law enforcement officers are using against motorists? An impromptu survey of state enforcement agencies proved that, like the Lorenzes, many law enforcement personnel are sticking to the traditional methods of handling traffic stops.
Survey questionnaires were e-mailed to 41 states (seven states did not have e-mail addresses available on their web sites and two states had incorrect e-mail addresses). Out of the 41 surveys sent out, 23 states answered the questionnaire by e-mail or via telephone. Here is what state law enforcement officers had to say about traffic stops:
|ALASKA - Trooper Hans Roelle, an Alaska State Trooper working for the state's Department of Transportation, has never heard of an intervention traffic stop and his state currently uses the traditional traffic stop method where the operator remains in the vehicle.||ARIZONA - Sgt. Jeff Trapp said Arizona's highway patrol may use a "felony stop" when the officer knows or suspects that the driver of the vehicle may present a danger to themselves or others, or may be involved in criminal activity. In the felony stop, the officers remain in a cover position by their patrol car and have the driver exit the vehicle and approach them with certain rules.|
|ARKANSAS - Lt. Bill Carver of the Arkansas State Police Troop L says the state has no set traffic stop procedure and troopers may use their own discretion.||CALIFORNIA - Lt. Michael S. Champion with the California Highway Patrol Academy said his state's officers use the traditional method where the driver and any passengers should keep their hands in plain view at all times and should not exit the vehicle until advised by the officer to do so.|
|CONNECTICUT - Sgt. Henry Perucki of the Connecticut State Police has never heard of an intervention traffic stop. He says his department sometimes varies from traditional traffic stops.||INDIANA - First Sgt. James M. Addison of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division of the Indiana State Police says his units prefer drivers to stay in their seat, seat belted in and only move around the cab when instructed to do so.|
|IOWA - Lt. Tom Gabriel, who coordinates the motor carrier safety program for the Iowa State Police, has never heard of an intervention stop.||LOUISIANA - Lt. Tim Sharkey of the Louisiana State Police says the officer will motion for or verbally direct the driver to exit and walk to the rear. Some of their officers use CB radios to communicate with truckdrivers.|
|MARYLAND - Cpl. Rob Moroney of the Maryland State Police Public Affairs Unit declined to comment because his department does not discuss officer safety issues.||MINNESOTA - Sgt. Russ Wicklund of Minnesota says, "Never heard of this intervention traffic stop, and we do nothing different than usual."|
|MISSOURI - An unsigned e-mail response from the Missouri State Highway Patrol Field Operations Bureau says the operator of any vehicle should remain in their vehicle until contacted by the officer, who will provide direction and instructions relative to displaying driver license, logbook and freight bills.||NEBRASKA - Trooper Jeff Barnes, an instructor at Nebraska's training academy, hasn't heard of an intervention stop but says the description is similar to a felony stop, but the officer must have reason to believe a felony has been committed.|
|NEVADA - Trooper Ed Harney of the Nevada Highway Patrol says troopers do not use the intervention stop method.||NEW JERSEY - As director of communications for the New Jersey State Police, John R. Hagerty is not aware of intervention traffic stops being conducted by New Jersey State Police.|
|OKLAHOMA - Lt. Greg Allen of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement Unit Troop S says their officers either interview the driver at the door or at the rear of the vehicle, but sometimes use CB radios or a PA system during felony stops or dangerous situations.||SOUTH DAKOTA - "I am not familiar with the term, 'intervention traffic stop,'" said Lt. Bill Mickelson of the South Dakota Highway Patrol.|
|TENNESSEE - Dana Keeton, public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Safety, says the department has criminal interdiction officers who work the interstates, but these stops should not differ from any traffic stop.||TEXAS - Lt. Steven Sullivan of the Texas Department of Public Safety's Traffic Law Enforcement department says they use a traditional traffic stop policy, but the driver in any vehicle, passenger or commercial, should follow the instructions given to them by the officer who stopped them.|
|UTAH - Lt. York Schulz of the Utah Highway Patrol Commercial Vehicle Enforcement says his unit uses traditional traffic stop methods with the driver remaining in the vehicle until the officer approaches them. The driver should follow the officer's instructions and requests.||VIRGINIA - Bud Cox, management analyst for the Virginia State Police, responded on behalf of Lt. Col. J.B. Scott, director of Virginia's Bureau of Field Operations. His statement said Virginia does not conduct an intervention stop. Once stopped the driver should place both hands in plain view on the steering wheel.|
|WEST VIRGINIA - Sgt. Michael Corsaro of West Virginia says there is "no such thing" as an intervention traffic stop in West Virginia and traffic stops are handled in a normal way unless the officer believes the vehicle was involved in a crime or stolen.||WISCONSIN - Lt. Jeff Lorentz of Wisconsin State Patrol Motor Carrier Services isn't familiar with the intervention traffic stop either.|
WYOMING - Lt. Douglas Dome of the Wyoming Highway Patrol is not familiar with the term "intervention" traffic stop, but says his patrols treat commercial vehicles like other vehicles.