The Justice Department (DOJ) has entered into a sweeping agreement with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and Governor Luis Fortuño to resolve its civil investigation of the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD). The complaint and the agreement were filed in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico, along with a joint motion requesting a temporary stay of the proceedings until April 15, 2013 to provide the incoming administration of Governor-elect Alejandro García Padilla sufficient time to review the agreement.
The comprehensive agreement addresses wide-ranging and ongoing constitutional violations by PRPD that were documented in a lengthy DOJ report issued in September 2011. The department found reasonable cause to believe that PRPD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, use of unreasonable force designed to suppress protected speech, and unconstitutional searches and seizures. The agreement also addresses allegations that PRPD fails to investigate sex crimes and domestic violence, and engages in discriminatory policing.
“We appreciate the hard work of Governor Fortuño, Superintendent Hector Pesquera, and their staff. Together, and with great input from the public, we have designed a comprehensive blueprint for reform that provides a solid foundation that will professionalize and support the hardworking men and women of PRPD as they protect the people of Puerto Rico,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We have also met with Governor-elect Garcia-Padilla, who recognizes that constitutional policing and effective policing go hand in hand. We look forward to working with Governor-elect García Padilla and his incoming administration to finalize the agreement and begin the critical work of rebuilding PRPD. Ensuring effective, constitutional policing is not a partisan issue, and we appreciate the commitment of Governor Fortuño and Governor-elect García Padilla to the reforms embodied in the agreement. The successful implementation of the reforms contained in this agreement will help to reduce crime, ensure respect for the Constitution and restore public confidence in PRPD.”
The agreement was reached after extensive negotiations with commonwealth officials and their police consultants. It provides a comprehensive blueprint for meaningful, sustainable reform and reflects the input of many community stakeholders from throughout the Commonwealth, including police affinity groups, members of the Puerto Rico business community, students, representatives of the Dominican community, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender communities.
The agreement addresses the policies, procedures, training, internal and external oversight, disciplinary systems and information and data integrity mechanisms that caused or contributed to the pattern or practice of misconduct. It also details necessary changes intended to ensure that police services are delivered to the people of Puerto Rico in a manner that is effective, complies with the Constitution, and promotes the community’s trust in PRPD. For instance, the agreement contains provisions that are designed to increase transparency and promote PRPD’s responsiveness to the community, including measures that require regular meetings with community representatives to facilitate cooperation and communication; collection and dissemination of accurate and up-to-date crime statistics; community outreach programs in each PRPD region; and independent and periodic compliance assessments that are available to the public.
The purpose of the joint motion requesting a temporary stay of the proceedings is to provide the incoming administration with a meaningful opportunity to review the agreement. The department and representatives of Governor Fortuño have met independently with Governor-elect García Padilla and his transition team to brief them on the investigation’s findings and the agreement. The stay, requested until April 15, 2013, will provide Governor-elect García Padilla and his incoming administration with a meaningful opportunity to review the agreement, and either accept it or negotiate necessary changes, before the department and Commonwealth request approval and entry of the agreement as an order. During this period, the department will continue its ongoing outreach into communities across Puerto Rico to seek input and feedback. Once approved and entered by the district court, the agreement will resolve the department’s civil action, and the implementation phase will immediately begin.
A copy of the complaint, the agreement, the joint motion to stay the proceedings, and September 2011 letter of findings can be found here.