Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Force to be Reckoned With

The U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) lambasted the Puerto Rican Police Department in a report released last Thursday condemning it of civil rights violations, corruption, and other "illegal activities." The findings confirm what many have long known about most police officers on the island. In fact, the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU), along with other organizations, have long called for the U.S Congress to look into the abuses committed by the island's police force. Instances where the police have been accused of using excessive force have occurred on a countless number of occasions, most notably during the University of Puerto Rico student demonstrations. The report also stated that the PRPD, which is comprised of over 17,000 officers, has consistently failed to investigate domestic violence cases, and many police officers have been found to discriminate island residents of Dominican descent.

As expected, Police Chief Emilio Díaz Colón has come out in defense of his underlings. During a press conference, he stated that "not one single police officer has come to commit civil rights violations." Furthermore, he contends that the police force will continue to do its job with dignity and respect." He did concede that the PRPD will have to implement "some" changes, and will have to provide its officers with the necessary training as suggested in the DOJ's report, which put forth 133 recommendations. Nevertheless, specific details on how the island's police force will be transformed were not provided by the Police Chief. To his credit, the PRPD suffers from a severe shortage of funding, which raises questions as to how it will be reformed.

Meanwhile, Gov. Fortuño has stated that his administration has sent a proposal, back in March, specifying how 110 of the 133 recommendations listed on the DOJ's report will be put into place. As there seems to be no end in sight to the island's crime wave, the homicide rate is 22.5 per 100,000 residents (it is nearly double that of Louisiana's, which has the U.S' highest rate), most have long had little or no confidence in the PRPD's ability to keep the streets safe. By the same token, little trust is bestowed upon other local government agencies, i.e Department of Education, the Department of Family, among others. This latest blow from federal authorities will hopefully bring about some substantive changes in the PRPD, but nobody is holding their breath. According to Gov. Fortuño, it can take as long as 15 years for the reform process to come full circle.

(Photo credit: Ricardo Arduengo/Associated Press)

1 comment:

Kofla Olivieri said...

I am not holding my breath, nothing has changed. At the age of 18 I was beaten up by the cops in Mayaguez. Trumped up charges were fabricated and I was "found" guilty in court. Looking back and reading recent news, cops are still behaving the same way terrorizing our citizens. This pattern is already ingrained in the police force. Sad to sat but nothing will ever change.

What more evidence is needed when Rodriguez Ema, governor's secretary, the person appointed by our governor to oversee and supervise the police, he is the same one who threatened students when he "recommended", (los estudiantes lo que necesitan es que los saquen a patadas).