TIME Canada

Canadian Driver Who Stopped Car to Rescue Ducklings Gets Jail Time

Emma Czornobaj
Emma Czornobaj, shown here in this June 3, 2014, file photo at the Montreal Courthouse in Canada, was found guilty in the deaths of two motorcyclists who collided with her car after she stopped for ducks on a Montreal-area highway. On Thursday, a judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail. Graham Hughes—AP

Motorcyclist and his daughter died after crashing into Emma Czornobaj's stationary vehicle

A Canadian woman who stopped her car on the highway to rescue ducklings, inadvertently causing the deaths of a motorcyclist and his daughter, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and banned from driving for 10 years on Thursday.

Emma Czornobaj, a 26-year-old woman from the Montreal suburb of Chateauguay, was sentenced Thursday to serve three months of jail time on the weekends, CBC reports. She was convicted in July on two counts of criminal negligence in the deaths of Andre Roy, 50, and his 16-year-old daughter Jessie, and had faced a possible life sentence.

In June 2010, Czornobaj parked her Honda Civic in the left lane of a highway in a Montreal suburb after seeing seven ducklings in the road. She said she was trying to gather the ducks and take them home. As she left her parked car to round up the ducklings, Roy crashed his motorcycle into the back of the stationary vehicle.

The incident has been divisive in Canada. A petition on Change.org signed by thousands of people pushed for the country’s legal system to be lenient on a woman who they believe only had the best of intentions in saving the ducks. The victim’s family members, however, have expressed frustration with Czornobaj over the fact that she hasn’t reached out to them.

[CBC]

TIME Crime

This Poll Shows America’s Stark Racial Divide Over the Police

Killings by Police Protest
Public defenders, members of the legal community and others lay down during a "die-in" protest in the Brooklyn borough of New York Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. Craig Ruttle—AP

Lowest ethics ratings for police since 1995

The percentage of nonwhite Americans who view police officers as honest and ethical plummeted in 2014, according to a new poll, sending ratings of law enforcement officers among all Americans to lows not seen in two decades.

According to a Gallup poll released Thursday, only 23% of nonwhites—largely made up of blacks and Hispanics—said they rated the honesty and ethical standards of police officers as “very high” or “high,” a 22-point drop from 2013. The views of non-Hispanic whites, however, remained virtually unchanged. Almost 60% said they rated cops’ ethical standards as very high or high.

(MORE: Why the Road to Ferguson Was a Freeway)

The drop among nonwhites helped bring overall honesty ratings for all Americans down to 48%, the lowest since 1995.

As crime rates have dropped over the last couple decades, Americans have generally viewed officers positively, according to Gallup. The highest ratings came, unsurprisingly, after 9/11, when 68% of Americans viewed cops’ ethics and honesty ratings as high, as they watched police officers in New York and elsewhere respond to the terrorist attacks on the country.

But the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, where white officers were involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, appear to have dramatically sunk those positive views among communities of color.

Grand juries declined to indict both officers—Ferguson’s Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department and New York City’s Daniel Pantaleo—in the deaths, respectively, of Brown and Garner. Those decisions have sparked widespread demonstrations in major cities against police brutality.

Americans’ views of officers’ ethics and honesty are not as low as they were in the 1970s, however, at a time when crime was a much bigger problem around the U.S., especially for inner cities. In 1977, only 37% of respondents rated officers’ ethical standards positively.

TIME executions

Oklahoma Inmate Felt ‘Liquid Fire’ During Execution, Doctor Says

Clayton Lockett
Doctors testified on Wednesday that Clayton Lockett, a death row inmate seen here in this June 29, 2011, file photo, likely suffered during his prolonged execution on April 29, 2014. AP

Expert says Clayton Lockett likely suffered on the execution table

An Oklahoma inmate whose prolonged execution triggered a statewide moratorium on executions likely suffered excruciating pain akin to “liquid fire” throughout his lethal injection last April.

That’s how one doctor assessed what Clayton Lockett experienced as he was put to death, in a federal court hearing Wednesday that will determine whether the state can once again resume executions in January.

Lockett, a convicted murderer who shot a 19-year-old woman and had her buried alive, was put to death with a three-drug combination on April 29. He reportedly writhed on the execution table and appeared to speak and regain consciousness during the process.

Since then, several grisly details have emerged about what went wrong, problems that likely arose due to poorly trained executioners and the use of a sedative that may not adequately put inmates to sleep.

(MORE: Report: Executioner Errors Led to Botched Execution)

On Wednesday, anesthesiologist David Lubarsky testified that midazolam, a sedative increasingly used by states as other drug sources have dried up, should not be used on inmates because it doesn’t render them fully unconscious. Lubarsky said the injection of vecuronium bromide, a muscle relaxer, would’ve likely felt like “liquid fire” because Lockett wasn’t properly knocked out.

Joseph Cohen, a forensic pathologist hired by Lockett’s lawyers to perform an autopsy following the lethal injection, also testified that he believed Lockett was conscious during the execution and confirmed that he found multiple puncture wounds on Lockett’s body where executioners attempted to insert IV lines.

Death row inmates in Oklahoma are seeking a federal court ruling to delay their upcoming executions, arguing in part that the state’s three-drug protocol used on Lockett violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Oklahoma’s next execution is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2015.

TIME Crime

Los Angeles Plans to Outfit Every Cop With a Camera

Police Body Cameras
A Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body camera Jan. 15, 2014. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to equip every LAPD officer with a camera. Damian Dovarganes—AP

LAPD would be the biggest agency to fully adopt body-worn cameras

Los Angeles will announce plans Tuesday to outfit every city police officer with body-worn cameras, an ambitious change that would make it the biggest police force in the country to fully adopt the devices.

Mayor Eric Garcetti will announce the roll-out of wearable cameras Tuesday and attempt to position the LAPD as a national leader in using devices that advocates say reduce use-of-force incidents and citizen complaints, while also providing recorded evidence of confrontations with police.

MORE: The one battle Michael Brown’s family will win

Los Angeles police have been testing body-worn cameras since January, but communities have increasingly adopted them since the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August. No video recordings of the incident were taken, and witnesses had conflicting accounts of Brown’s encounter with Officer Darren Wilson, who a grand jury decided not to indict.

Experts say more than 5,000 of the 18,500 police departments around the U.S. are either testing or using the cameras, including some of the biggest agencies in the country, like the New York Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.

While there are few studies showing the benefits of body-worn cameras, the one department that appears to have had proven success with them is in the Los Angeles suburb of Rialto, where the agency reported an 88% drop in complaints filed against officers and a 60% decline in use-of-force incidents since its officers started using wearable cameras in February 2012.

TIME Transportation

New Jersey’s Red Light Camera Program Is Going Dark

Red Light Cameras
A red light photo enforcement sign is seen on Route 1 in Lawrence Township on July 25, 2012. New Jersey's red light camera pilot program will end Dec. 16, 2014. Mel Evans—AP

The 5-year pilot program will end Dec. 16

Over the last five years, red light cameras across New Jersey have caught drivers speeding through intersections, irking motorists who view them as cash cows for local government rather than true safety measures. But after Tuesday, New Jersey residents won’t have traffic cameras to kick around anymore.

The state’s red-light cameras will go dark at midnight, ending a program some said would reduce traffic accidents at intersections. The program brought in millions of dollars to city and state governments, prompting many red light opponents to argue that the cameras are just moneymakers in the guise of a safety device.

(MORE: Ohio’s Traffic Cameras May Be on the Way Out)

City officials often argue that the cameras’ presence affects driver behavior. Union Township, for example, says 27,000 fewer drivers have run red lights in the 30 months it has used the cameras. Statewide, New Jersey Department of Transportation studies claim that crashes overall are down. The DOT numbers have been championed by public officials like Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who has pushed for legislators to continue the pilot program.

But a couple of grassroots engineers have challenged those stats. Rick Short and George Ford produced a report detailing discrepancies between the red light camera safety claims and raw DOT crash data. “We have proved that the crash reduction percentages spread by the camera industry and town leaders are fictitious,” they said.

Polls show that the cameras have have slowly lost favor over the years, mirroring what’s happening in a number of states around the country. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 495 communities currently use the cameras down from a peak of 540 in 2012.

TIME Crime

New York Cop Says He Didn’t Put Eric Garner in a Chokehold

Police Chokehold Death
Protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner gather in Columbus Circle, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in New York. Jason DeCrow—AP

NYPD officer says it was a takedown technique learned in police academy

The New York Police Department officer whose aggressive arrest of Staten Island resident Eric Garner led to his death has denied using an illegal chokehold to subdue him.

It was a take-down move, Officer Daniel Pantaleo has told NYPD investigators, and not a chokehold.

Pantaleo, whom a grand jury declined to indict in Garner’s death, has told NYPD internal affairs investigators that he used a takedown techniqueon Garner that he was taught in police academy.

(MORE: Here’s What a Chokehold Actually Is)

“He said he never exerted any pressure on the windpipe and never intended to injure Mr. Garner,” Stuart London, Pantaleo’s attorney, told CNN.

The video of Pantaleo taking down Garner as he tried to arrest the Staten Island man for illegally selling loose cigarettes led to protests and nationwide debates over police conduct and use of force. While a grand jury chose not to indict Pantaleo, he’s still subject to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice as well as an internal NYPD probe.

Since the grand jury decision, Garner’s last words of “I can’t breathe” have been widely used in demonstrations nationwide and in several other countries by protesters against police brutality.

[New York Post]

TIME Crime

Florida Cops Suspected of Deleting Internal Files Won’t Face Charges

Policeman
Luiz Felipe Castro—Getty Images

Accused of deleting computer records for officers who were under investigation by Internal Affairs

Two Florida cops suspected of deleting internal police department reports involving themselves or their friends won’t face criminal charges.

Hollywood Assistant Police Chief Ken Haberland and Maj. Norris Redding were accused of deleting computer records for officers who were under investigation by the police department’s Internal Affairs division, the Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

The records, deleted in December 2010 and January 2011, were meant to be kept public in accordance with state law. The officers apparently only deleted the electronic records but failed to get rid of the physical copies.

The two officers have admitted to violating state law and will have to pay a $500 civil fine, as well as to the Broward State Attorney’s Office for the investigation into their actions.

The two officers, initially relieved of duty with pay, won’t return to the Hollywood police department until an internal investigation is completed.

[Sun Sentinel]

TIME Religion

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Won’t Get Tax Breaks

'Ark Encounter' is struggling to stay afloat

A life-size Noah’s Ark theme park planned in northern Kentucky won’t receive $18 million in tax incentives after concerns from the state over its hiring practices.

The state’s tourism secretary wrote a letter Wednesday saying that Answers in Genesis, which is funding the planned Ark Encounter theme park, was requiring “salvation testimony” and a “Creation belief statement” in its job postings, which the state said was discriminating based on religious grounds.

(MORE: Modern-Day Noah: Dutch Man Builds Ark of Biblical Proportions)

“It is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourist attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives,” wrote Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart.

The Ark Encounter, which would feature a 510-foot wooden replica of Noah’s Ark as described in the Bible, has been underway since 2010, but the $170 million project has run into financial difficulties since getting approval in 2011 from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

TIME Transportation

Ohio’s Traffic Cameras May Be On the Way Out

Traffic Cameras Cleveland
Motorists drive past a sign warning of upcoming traffic cameras on Oct. 29, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Tony Dejak—AP

A new law would require traffic violations to be witnessed first hand by police officers

Ohio’s red-light cameras, which catch motorists speeding through intersections, may be switched off after state representatives approved a bill that would require traffic violations at intersections to be witnessed by officers first-hand.

The Ohio House voted 58-31 for the bill on Wednesday. It’s expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.

Red light cameras around the U.S. are slowly losing favor as citizens have increasingly viewed them chiefly as a way for local and state governments to generate revenue rather than a true safety measure.

(MORE: Cities Have Found a New Way to Take Your Money)

The cameras hit their peak in the U.S. in 2012, when 540 communities utilized them. Since then, they’ve begun to lose favor, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As of December 2014, 495 communities currently use them.

New Jersey legislators have also debated for months whether to get rid of the cameras altogether, and cities in Florida, California, Missouri and elsewhere are considering giving up them up after backlash from drivers.

Traffic cameras have gained a notorious reputation in the last few years. In Chicago, one of the biggest red-light camera manufacturers and operators, Redflex, has been caught in a bribery scandal in which the company allegedly provided money to city officials in exchange for contracts with the city worth $124 million. The city also recently admitted that its yellow lights were fractions of a second shorter than the three-second city minimum, allowing officials to net almost $8 million from an additional 77,000 red light tickets.

TIME Crime

Justice Department Finds Cleveland Police Guilty of Excessive Use of Force

U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division, right, makes a statement during a news conference on Dec. 4, 2014, in Cleveland.
U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division, right, makes a statement during a news conference on Dec. 4, 2014, in Cleveland. Tony Dejak—AP

Investigation found that officers excessively used deadly force, unnecessarily used Tasers and chemical sprays, and used unwarranted force against mentally ill people

The U.S. Department of Justice has told the Cleveland police department to conduct an internal shake-up after a federal probe found its officers systematically and routinely used excessive and unreasonable force.

A 21-month-long investigation into the practices of the Cleveland Division of Police concluded Thursday that officers excessively use deadly force, unnecessarily utilize tools like Tasers and chemical sprays, and use unwarranted force against people who are mentally ill.

The report is a damning portrayal of a department that has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and others within Cleveland for years over its conduct.

(MORE: Attorney General Eric Holder Plans ‘Institute of Justice’ to Address Protest Concerns)

The federal government began investigating the department in March 2013 after the officer-related shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams following a high-speed car chase. On Nov. 29, 2012, more than 100 Cleveland police officers were involved in trying to apprehend Russell and Williams, both of whom were black and unarmed. Officers eventually fired 137 shots at the car. Almost all of the officers who fired were white.

The department has come under scrutiny again in recent days after a black 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, was shot dead on Nov. 22 by a white police officer in a Cleveland park, who apparently mistook a toy pellet gun for a real firearm.

Cleveland police have agreed to an independent monitor who will oversee a series of reforms within the department.

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