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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Justice Department Enters into Far-reaching Agreement with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to Reform the Puerto Rico Police Department


The Justice Department today entered into a sweeping civil rights agreement with the commonwealth of Puerto Rico to modernize and reform the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD).  The agreement resolves a civil suit initiated by the department in December 2012 to remedy a pattern and practice of police misconduct by PRPD.  The agreement represents a joint commitment to effective and constitutional policing and is the product of extensive negotiations between the department, PRPD and the administrations of Governor Alejandro García-Padilla and his predecessor Luis Fortuño.  The agreement was filed with the federal court today and will become court-enforceable once it is approved by District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí.


The agreement is designed not only to promote constitutional policing, but also to enhance public and officer safety and increase community confidence in PRPD.  The far-reaching agreement is among the most extensive agreements ever obtained by the department under the police misconduct provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and requires corrective action in 11 core areas.   These areas include use of force, searches and seizures, equal protection, policies and procedures, training, supervision, civilian complaints and internal investigations, community engagement and information systems.  The agreement will also provide the public with meaningful opportunities to participate in the reform process through periodic community meetings, public reports, civilian interaction committees, community surveys and the implementation of community policing principles.  The agreement is expected to be fully implemented in ten years, although there is no expiration date.  A technical compliance advisor will assess and report on PRPD’s compliance, as well as provide technical assistance to promote constitutional policing. 


The agreement is also tailored to the unique needs of PRPD and with a recognition of the public safety challenges facing Puerto Rico.  With a diverse mission and a police force of 17,000 officers, PRPD is the second largest police department in the country and serves close to four million residents.  An initial capacity-building period will allow PRPD to modernize its administrative systems and professionalize its police force.  Through the development of action plans, PRPD will have broad flexibility to stage implementation and allocate resources to achieve measurable results within established time frames.  Once the plans are implemented, officers in all police regions will have the policy guidance, training, supervision, equipment and support they need to carry out their duties in a lawful, effective and efficient manner. 


“We commend the administrations of Governor Alejandro García-Padilla and his predecessor Luis Fortuño for taking on the formidable challenge of transforming PRPD into a modern police force that embraces constitutional policing as part of its core mission,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “Police departments that respect the rights of the people they serve earn the confidence of the public and become more effective in fighting crime.  Because the agreement we are announcing today will institutionalize a culture of accountability, Puerto Rico will now have access to nearly $10 million in asset forfeiture funds, which it can use to implement the reforms contained in the agreement.”


“Under the leadership of Justice Secretary Luis Sánchez Betances, Superintendent Héctor Pesquera, and their staff, we have been able to craft a historic agreement that will give the hard-working men and women of PRPD the support and tools they need to protect civil rights and effectively engage with the community to address public safety,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West.  “We are also grateful to all of the community leaders, police officers and members of the public who came forward to assist our investigation and who made this day possible.”


The department’s December 2012 civil lawsuit followed a thorough investigation of PRPD’s policies and practices.  The investigation uncovered wide-ranging and long-standing deficiencies that gave rise to a pattern and practice of police misconduct, including use of excessive force, use of unreasonable force designed to suppress protected speech and unconstitutional searches and seizures.  The investigation also uncovered evidence that PRPD has failed to adequately investigate gender-based violence and engaged in discriminatory policing.  PRPD cooperated throughout the investigation and began initiating corrective actions in response to the investigative team’s recommendations and technical assistance.     


The department began negotiating an agreement with the administration of former Governor Luis Fortuño after completing the investigation in September 2011.  The negotiations culminated in a preliminary agreement that was filed concurrently with the department’s complaint in December 2012.  The court granted a joint request to stay the proceedings to provide Governor García-Padilla’s administration the opportunity to review and negotiate a final agreement.  Once the federal court approves the agreement, the parties will select a technical compliance advisor and begin implementation. 


A copy of the complaint, the final agreement, the joint motion seeking approval of the agreement, and the September 2011 letter of findings can be found at www.justice.gov/crt   If individuals have information that is relevant to the case and PRPD, you may contact the Department of Justice at community.prpd@usdoj.gov or at 877-871-9726.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014