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Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rico Police Department’


“It’s raining money and drugs here in Puerto Rico.” For all those who think that the issues of border security, drug crimes and tragic murders are only affecting the US-Mexican border just need to watch this report from CBS NEWS.

As the report says: “Drug smuggling is as much a part of Puerto Rico as palm trees and sand – American sand. For drug traffickers that means once they get to Puerto Rico, no more customs checkpoints on the way to the mainland.”


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Last week, the United States Department of Justice released a scathing report accusing the Puerto Rican police —the nation’s second largest police force— of serious abuse and civil rights violations. Now, the island’s federal woes continue, as The Wall Street Journal reported today about serious fraud charges and Social Security disability claims. As the article states:

[SSDI]© United Press International Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll

The inspector general, Patrick O’Carroll, told an audience at an Aug. 30 disability-examiners conference that the investigation was tied to a pharmaceutical plant that recently closed in Puerto Rico, with 300 employees losing their jobs.

Shortly after the layoff, 290 of the 300 former employees applied for Social Security disability benefits and they all used the same doctor, who lived far from the plant, Mr. O’Carroll told the audience. Mr. O’Carroll didn’t identify the doctor, whose identity couldn’t be learned.

Jonathan Lasher, an assistant inspector general at the agency, wouldn’t comment on the case, but said, “The office of the inspector general is continuing to pursue any number of fraud allegations in Puerto Rico related to the Social Security disability program.”

The investigation comes as part of a stepped-up presence in the U.S. commonwealth by the inspector general’s office following a March article in The Wall Street Journal that showed how much easier it is to win Social Security disability benefits on the Caribbean island compared with any of the 50 U.S. states.

In 2010, the Social Security Administration awarded benefits in 63.4% of its initial decisions in Puerto Rico, compared with much lower rates elsewhere. In Arizona, for example, benefits were awarded in initial applications in 35.6% of the cases. Nine of the 10 top U.S. zip codes for workers collecting Social Security disability benefits are in Puerto Rico, according to government data.

A spokesman for the Social Security Administration said in light of “statistical trends” in Puerto Rico it has asked the inspector general’s office to “make sure that these trends do not reflect an increase in fraud.”

The article continues:

Even though SSDI is a federal program funded by payroll taxes, initial decisions about whether someone qualifies are made by state officials because of the way the program is designed. Officials in the Puerto Rican government promised full cooperation with the probe.

“We strongly support the effort to investigate this case and any incident of abuse, and will partner with federal officials to eliminate fraud in not only the disability program, but in other federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid,” Lorenzo Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s secretary of health, said in a written statement. “As with any other federal investigation involving fraud with a federal program, if a physician is found to be performing unlawfully, we will move swiftly at the local level through the state licensing board to take whatever action is needed to halt the abuse.”

Mr. Gonzalez said these incidents “are not unique to Puerto Rico” and show the need for “standardized, clear cut guidelines” in determining how benefits are awarded.

Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate was 15.5% in July, higher than the 9.1% national average.

For those who have lived and worked on the island for decades, Puerto Rico has had an anecdotal history of abusing federal handouts and claims. The recent actions by the federal government confirm that the island’s economic relationship with the United States is being challenged and questioned, in light of the economic problems the federal government is facing.

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The former governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, wrote an essay last month in Spanish called “La fiebre no está en la sábana,” which literally means “The Fever is Not on the Bed Sheet,” a saying that speaks to the superficiality of the island’s dysfunctional political problems. For Puerto Rico to truly be a better political society, we must dig deeper, go beyond the “bed sheet,” and truly reform a political system that has been egocentric, self-serving, and quite frankly, has kept the island passive for decades. We have published a loose English translation of Vilá’s essay, which calls for electoral reform that actually follows the process of the world’s top democracies.

It’s no secret that over the last thirty years the discontent and dissatisfaction [Puerto Ricans] have with the Legislature has resulted into a lengthy and gradual crescendo of complaints and “reform” legislated to have resolved nothing.

Our reasons for these reforms are numerous: because legislators do not work hard enough and had no time to legislate their projects, because we need to create the second ordinary session of the Legislature and also adopted the principle of full-time legislator. Because they spend too much so we gave them a “stipend” (as if it were not the same) and had them pay taxes on that income. Because they legislated late at night, we a strict schedule and so they are not seen as being too close with the candidate for Governor, we created the third ballot.

Because there are way too many legislators and because they spend too much, we the people of Puerto Rico voted for the one-chamber system, but then the PNP [pro-statehood party] ignored the people’s mandate and now there are way too many legislators, who spend too much and annoy the people. I would venture to say that if a solution to have the people vote for no chamber or no legislators, it would be pass.

And last but not least, the scandal and the resignation of Sen. Roberto Arango of the PNP have added to this debate.

All these proposals, as legislated and proposed now, are all symptoms, but not the root of the problem. Our biggest problem is the intellectual quality, diligence, and ethics of our legislators. Nothing proposed will address that issues, which is the real problem. The proposal is being discussed now so that we have a Legislature with fewer legislators, what it means is that instead of having Chuchin and Arango in the same chamber, we will have either Arango or Chuchin. That’s not real change.

I’ve seen this problem from different perspectives and experiences: as a consultant at La Fortaleza when it approved the second session, as a legislator when legislators approved the full-time law, as the Resident Commissioner —where I could see the differences with the federal Congress— and as a governor having to govern with a PNP-controlled legislature. The experience gained and the failed attempts of legislative reforms aimed at a deeper diagnosis of the problem: the poor quality of our legislators is the result of a deficiency in our democracy.

It is true that we as a people vote for these legislators, but the other truth is that every four years in Puerto Rico almost nobody knows who their legislators and candidates for the House and Senate are. We live in a highly “executive” system, which is what truly influences move the elections for our Governor and Mayors. These are the ones who work to have the people know and think about them when they vote. But let’s be honest, people are not thinking about their legislative candidates when they go to the polls. That is the root of our problem and legislators who are elected are the symptom.The problem is a deficiency in our political and democratic framework.

I have always believed that the remedy for the deficiencies must be more a democratic democracy. And in the case of our Legislature, after so many scandals and mediocrity of so many failed attempts at reform, it’s time to make real changes that are deep and dramatic. We have the power as a people to truly examine who the candidates are for our Legislature.

Therefore I propose to open a discussion about we can amend our Constitution effectively, so that legislators are chosen in a separate election from those of Governors and Mayors, just like in other countries and how it is done most of the time in the United States. (We should also discuss how many legislators we want.) We can keep the legislators’ terms to last four years, but the elections would occur every two years between the elections of Governors and Mayors. Thus, in this election the only thing on the ballot would be candidates for the Legislature and the people can focus on the performance of their legislators and the other candidates that could  replace them. What I propose is a direct relationship is between the legislature and their constituents. Let’s get to the root of the problem. The fever is not on the bed sheet.

Aníbal Acevedo Vilá

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Guess our original blog about Puerto Rico not becoming the 51st state from a few months ago has been circulating the political circles in Puerto Rico and the United States, since the comments continue to trickle in. This is our favorite one of the week from reader Bruce R. Harris:

Americans will never accept a flag with 51 stars in it

“I have a question for you we don’t pay fed taxes and that is true, if we become a state we will. Now you mention that against us, but where in the US Constitution says that a US Citizen can not vote because it do not paid federal taxes?” Israel

My posts are answers to one of your faithful, yet ignorant followers. I’m just surprised you did not provide an answer to Israels’ question. Is it because you are not very familiar with US history, and the why’s of how things are supposed to be accomplished in Congress?

Spreading bad poop is not the way to get people together. If you want to be taken as a serious mediator by people of all sides of the issues then provide only factual and truthful comments all of the time. And this statement below will win you absolutely no points from most of Americans, including many of my latino friends.

“So now that you have the history of this politically charged debate (it has basically been the respective rallying cry between the PPD and the PNP), I still say this: In today’s America, a place where anti-Latino sentiment towards illegal immigrants and legal citizens has never been stronger, why would Puerto Rico, a proud country with ties to both the United States and Latin America, want to become the 51st state? Even if it did (and the current governor Luis Fortuño is a strong advocate of statehood), the America we know today would never welcome it.”

Ok, so we are now accused of spreading “bad poop” but we will let Bruce in on a thing or two:

  1. This blog is NOT a moderator of all sides. If you know the history of this blog, you would know that we do not support statehood for Puerto Rico.
  2. Bruce, we have NO CLUE what you mean about “taxation without representation,” because the reality is that Puerto Rico DOES NOT PAY FEDERAL TAXES but still has a non-voting representative in the US Congress. Your argument makes no sense. Technically, Puerto Rico has minimal representation in Congress, although it is non-voting. Also, the American Revolution had to do with NOT BECOMING part of the British Empire; your logic is reversed here. If anything, the US would understand if Puerto Rico would choose to secede from the US.
  3. Last time we checked, more US Latinos we know feel that Puerto Rico would benefit from a more realistic political arrangement with the United States, such as free association or (gasp) independence.
  4. Here is what the Fortuñistas cannot answer: even if a non-binding plebiscite favors statehood, the FINAL AUTHORITY of Puerto Rico’s status is the US Congress and right now, in the era of extreme right vs. left politics in the US, very few people in Congress would have the courage to say that Puerto Rico (and the $19 billion dollars per year it would cost to maintain it) should become a state.
Bruce, keep drinking your Fortuño juice. And we still don’t get what you mean by Israel. Last time we checked, Israel’s situation is not even close to Puerto Rico’s. Actually, Palestine’s situation is a bit more similar than the island’s.

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Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 8, 2011

WASHINGTON – Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today announced its findings that the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) has engaged in a pattern and practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law.   The investigation, launched in July 2008, was conducted in accordance with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.

 The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that a pattern and practice of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas, including:

  • Use of excessive force;
  • Use of unreasonable force and other misconduct designed to suppress the exercise of protected First Amendment rights; and
  • Unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests.

In addition to these findings, the investigation uncovered other serious concerns. In particular, the investigation uncovered troubling evidence that PRPD frequently fails to properly investigate and document sex crimes and incidents of domestic violence, and that PRPD engages in discriminatory policing practices that target individuals of Dominican descent.   At this time, the division has not made a formal finding of a pattern and practice violation in these areas, in part because PRPD does not adequately collect data to evaluate these issues.

The Justice Department found a number of long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies that caused or contributed to these patterns of unlawful conduct, including:

  • A failure of PRPD to implement policies to guide officers on lawful policing practices, including the application of force;
  • Tactical units that have been permitted to develop violent subcultures;
  • Insufficient pre-service and in-service training;
  • Inadequate supervision;
  • Ineffective systems of complaint intake, investigation and adjudication;
  • An ineffective disciplinary system;
  • Limited risk management; and
  • A lack of external oversight and accountability.

“The Puerto Rico Police Department is broken in a number of critical ways.   The problems are wide ranging and deeply rooted, and have created a crisis of confidence that makes it extremely difficult to develop police-community partnerships that are a cornerstone of effective policing,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “Our findings should serve as a foundation to transform the police department and to help restore the community’s trust in fair, just and effective law enforcement.   The problems within the PRPD have been present for many years and will take time to fix, but we look forward to continuing our work with the people of Puerto Rico, Governor Luis Fortuño, Superintendent Emilio Díaz Colón and his officers to create and implement a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform.”

The Justice Department’s thorough and independent investigation involved an in-depth review of PRPD practices, as well as extensive community engagement.   Department attorneys and investigators conducted exhaustive interviews with command staff and rank-and-file officers at PRPD headquarters and 10 of PRPD’s 13 police areas; participated in ride-alongs with officers and supervisors; attended training courses at the police academy; and reviewed thousands of pages of documents.   The division also met with and interviewed external stakeholders, including community members and local civil rights organizations.

Throughout the investigation, the division provided feedback and technical assistance to PRPD, and PRPD has taken a number of remedial measures.   To create lasting reform, Puerto Rico must act decisively, transparently and immediately.   PRPD must develop and implement new policies and protocols, and train its officers in effective and constitutional policing.   In addition, PRPD must implement systems to ensure accountability, foster police-community partnerships, improve the quality of policing throughout the commonwealth and eliminate unlawful bias from all levels of policing decisions.

The department will seek to obtain a court enforceable agreement and will work with PRPD, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the community to develop and implement a comprehensive reform plan with the judicial oversight needed to address the violations of the Constitution and federal law.

“The findings are an outgrowth of a transparent, inclusive process in which we heard critical feedback from police officers, community leaders, governmental officials and other key stakeholders.   We will continue to actively engage all stakeholders in the process of developing and implementing a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform that will reduce crime, ensure respect for the Constitution and restore public confidence in the Puerto Rico Police Department,” continued Assistant Attorney General Perez.

This investigation was conducted by the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division with the assistance of law enforcement professionals, including former police chiefs and supervisors who provided in-depth knowledge and expertise.

The executive summary and full report can be found at www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/pr.php .   For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt .  If you have any comments or concerns, please feel free to contact us at community.prpd@usdoj.gov .

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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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