(Photo : Reuters)
Police reformation is set to occur in Puerto Rico following an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.
The Puerto Rican police department has been accused of corruption, illegal killings, and violating civil rights, according to the Associated Press, and holds the second-largest police force in the US with over 17,000 officers.
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The agreement with the U.S. Justice Department settles a lawsuit filed by the U.S. following a report stating Puerto Rico's handlings of crime. The lawsuit alleges discrimination, excessive force, and unlawful procedures and searches by the Puerto Rican police. The lawsuit also noted the death of Miguel Caceres, who was shot three times by police in 2007. Caceres' death was captured on video, including the one shot to his head.
Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno said the agreement with make the territory safer for the four million residents, which suffered a record of 1,117 homicides in 2011.
Gov. Fortuno added the lawsuit is on hold in order to give Puerto Rico enough time to review the agreement and how it can be implemented onto its officers.
"The challenges that we identified in the report were many years in the making," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez during a phone interview, according to the AP. "Solving the problem is going to take many years. I think it can get done, but it's hard work."
The report noted over 1,500 complaints were filed against Puerto Rican police officers from 2004 to 2008 for excessive or unjustified force as well as noting the arrest of 1,700 police officers from 2005 to 2010 ranging from drug trafficking, assault, murder, rape, and theft.
American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero welcomed the agreement.
Romero stated, "We're very pleased that the Justice Department has taken concrete action to end the unconscionable abuse Puerto Ricans have suffered at the hands of their own police force. For years the Puerto Rico Police Department has resisted reform. This agreement provides a roadmap for long-overdue reforms."