Posts Tagged ‘United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
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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The following is an English transcript of this morning’s San Juan press conference regarding the Department of Justice’s report on police brutality and civil rights violations in Puerto Rico. The announcement about the report was made by Thomas Perez, Director of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice’s San Juan office.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Also in attendance was Republican pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño.

10:16 a.m. – Fortuño leaves the room as reporters keep asking him questions questions.

10:13 a.m. – “In two weeks I will be in Washington, but this time with a report that is based on something concrete and I will hold meetings to ensure collaboration for the reform of the justice system happen as soon as possible,” Fortuño said.10:11 a.m.  Fortuño contends that the Superintendent of Police, Emilio Diaz, did not need to be present at the press conference. “I explained all this to the Superintendent. He didn’t necessarily have to be here because we met yesterday to discuss the report. I explained the research for this report had started in the previous administration, but we take responsibility. ”

10:10 am – “We’re bringing officers throughout the island to go through a retraining in the Bayamón West; arrangements are being made in the physical plant of the barracks and incorporating new technology, we have trained people in uniform and we have raised the academic level of the police,” Fortuño said.

10: 01 am-The Governor goes on to explain the steps they are taking within the police.

10:00 a.m. – When a reporter asked the Governor what were he concrete actions of the government before the report’s recommendations, Fortuño said: “We did not wait for this report to come out; a year ago with the help of the NYPD and the Department of Justice we have been addressing problems that we believed deserved our immediate attention. Some of these are: use of force to ensure that we fight against crime, maintaining respect for citizens, banning the use of CN gas —one of the most toxic gases used—; specific instructions on the use of rattan sticks and how to prosecute.”
9:55 a.m. – “I think that is that is helpful to note that of the 133 recommendations [from the DOJ], 110 are included in our own work plan. That means that we recognize the problems and have a similar vision with the U.S. Justice Department,” Fortuño said.
9:52 a.m. – “We are training the police with the problems identified in the report. We recognize our shortcomings,” Fortuño said.

9:51 a.m. – The Governor indicated that the report did not include or cover the violent incidents at the University of Puerto Rico, however, a journalist indicated to the Governor that those incidents were reference on page 7 of the report.

9:50 am – Regarding violent incidents at the UPR, the Sheraton and the Capitol, Fortuño said: “On June 30, 2010 there was an incident that I said that was unacceptable, the next morning I called the mayor of New York to talk to the Commissioner of Police. I took immediate action after seeking help from the NYPD, which many people see as a force with a high degree of professionalism. ”

9:48 a.m. – “If I had not recognized the problem, we would not have made public statements and taken action,” said Fortuño questions about why he places most of the blame of this problem to past administrations.

9:47 a.m. – “This report in no way be taken as an affront to your dignity and respect as a challenge that you have the people for the excellent work you do. We must receive it as another tool to give you what you need to do your job better. The people deserve a more effective police, “said Fortuño, who called the Puerto Rican police “heroes.”

9:46 a.m. – “As for the report, we carefully read and study it. It will have many points with which we agree and others that do not,” Fortuño said.

9:45 am – “This administration has a proven record of collaboration with the federal government. Our administration has shown a commitment to resolving problems, even if they were inherited from other administrations. That has certainly been the case in education, where efficiencies that have inherited from past administrations was dragging, we have been attending to and fixing,” Fortuño said.

9:44 a.m. – “For decades, police have served the people with excellence, integrity, commitment, and respect. They was also instrumental in countless efforts in the fight against drug trafficking and in defense of national security, despite the challenges faced for years, including lack of adequate resources and training,” the Governor said.

9:41 a.m. – “Although this report pre-dates our administration, we have assumed our responsibility and we have cooperated with federal authorities. The report has disclosed deficiencies discussed through several decades, “said Fortuño

 9:40 am – Governor Luis Fortuño addressed the people at the conference.
9:39 a.m. – Thomas Perez said: “We will create a robust framework for change and this is time consuming, not resolved overnight, but the culture of a police department can be changed, I’ve seen, but need to sustain this reform.”

9:38 a.m. – “I would like to speak directly to men and women of the Police, who put their lives at risk to preserve law and order on the island. Their heroics were overshadowed by the actions of a few systematic weaknesses affecting the police,” Perez added.

 9:37 a.m. – “We have a great opportunity to reform the department and to transform the island to all who live in it. The people will be here with you for the time necessary to make sure that failure is not an option, but a sustained reform is only possible with commitment and help,” Perez said.
9:36 a.m. – According to Perez, “we will continue our work with the governor and the police and community leaders to create a plan on how to improve the situation and police reform and restore public confidence. We are committed to making this process a transparent one. “

9:35 am – “We are aware that crime has escalated in PR in recent years and the country is going through a serious social problem, however, categorically we reject to justify the rise in crime by the police. An agency must have effective cooperation and trust of the people and an agent cannot be respected if he or she not respect civil rights,” Perez said.

9:32 a.m. – “Other shortcomings: they often fail to investigate sex crimes and crimes committed by the officers themselves. In addition, the police used discriminatory practices against people of Dominican origin, and the Department does not collect data to investigate these situations. Police do not ensure that all individuals are treated equally, regardless of gender, origin, religion or sexual orientation,” Perez said.

9:31 a.m. – “The police also used excessive force, planted evidence in raids and arrested people without cause or probable cause,” Perez added.

9:28 a.m. – Thomas Perez said that “the problem is deeply rooted in the culture of the police. We found reasonable cause to understand that the police make a pattern and practice in three areas: use of excessive force in violation of the 4th Amendment, illegal search and seizure, and unreasonable use of force directed at suppressing the right protected by the 1st Amendment. ”

9:23 a.m. “The Department has broad problems with deep roots. The problems have existed for many years and long before this administration,” Perez said.

9:21 a.m. Perez said he had a meeting yesterday with Governor Fortuño to discuss what they have learned as a result of the investigation.

9:20 a.m. The press conference in San Juan starts with the Director of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Thomas Perez.

Here are two videos of what Perez said at the end of the conference:

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