Justice Department Report States Puerto Rican Police Guilty of Serious Abuse and Civil Rights Violations

 

In what will be seen as a major blow to the administration of Republican pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño, the United States Justice Department will release a 116-page report today that will accuse the Puerto Rican police force, the second largest force in the United States, of police abuse and major civil rights violations.

The New York Times published an article today that reveals several points about the report. It is clear that the Justice Department will not be diplomatic in its choice of words for the island's leadership, which was responsible for sending police during student protests at the University of Puerto Rico earlier this year and in 2010.

As the article states:

The report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, says the 17,000-officer force routinely conducts illegal searches and seizures without warrants. It accuses the force of a pattern of attacking nonviolent protesters and journalists in a manner “designed to suppress the exercise of protected First Amendment rights.”

And it says investigators “uncovered troubling evidence” that law enforcement officers in Puerto Rico appear to routinely discriminate against people of Dominican descent and “fail to adequately police sex assault and domestic violence” cases — including spousal abuse by fellow officers.

“Unfortunately,” the report found, “far too many P.R.P.D. officers have broken their oath to uphold the rule of law, as they have been responsible for acts of crime and corruption and have routinely violated the constitutional rights of the residents of Puerto Rico.”

The report is likely to intensify a sense of distress among the nearly four million American citizens who live on Puerto Rico, where violent crime has spilled into well-to-do areas. While violent crime has plummeted in most of the mainland United States, the murder rate in Puerto Rico is soaring. In 2011, there have been 786 homicides — 117 more than at this point last year.

Rather than helping to solve the crime wave, the Puerto Rico Police Department is part of the problem, the report contends. In October, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 61 officers from the department in the largest police-corruption operation in bureau history. And the arrest of Puerto Rican police officers, the report says, is hardly rare.

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