[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday entered into an agreement [text, PDF] with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to reform the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) [official website, in Spanish]. Speaking in San Juan, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the details [press conference] of the agreement, which include creating a new task force, supported by 26 local task force officers, to enhance gun and drug interdiction efforts on the island. This agreement will require the PRPD to implement a variety of policies and practices related to ethical and responsible policing, police training, the use of force, searches and seizures, equal protection and non-discrimination, and community engagement. The DOJ is contributing $10 million in asset forfeiture funds to defray the cost of modernizing and reforming the PRPD. The agreement, a joint commitment, resolves the civil suit initiated by the department.
In 2008, the Civil Rights Division opened an investigation [complaint, PDF] of the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [texts]. Following its comprehensive investigation, the DOJ announced its findings [text, PDF] in September 2011 that the PRPD has engaged in patterns of misconduct that violate the Constitution and federal law, finding: 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. The DOJ condemned [JURIST report] the PRPD for number of long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies within the PRPD that caused or contributed to these patterns of misconduct. In June 2012 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed another lawsuit [JURIST report] against the PRPD, alleging that they violated the rights of protesters. The week prior to filing the lawsuit, the ACLU released a report alleging widespread abuses [JURIST report] by the PRPD.