Cops Gone Wild in Puerto Rico

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Allegations of civil rights violations in Puerto Rico are on the rise. And the problem isn’t just out of control police officers.

Earlier this month, a fact-finding delegation from New York, organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), visited the island. What the delegation heard was testimony after testimony by Puerto Rican students and others attacked by police officers during demonstrations. Far from isolated incidents, police aggression appears to be a systemic policy and practice.

The Government of Puerto Rico seems to be giving the police free reins to suppress freedom of speech and silence those who protest against it. It is unwilling to recognize the excesses of its own police force and unable to guarantee basic civil rights of its people. They are defending police behavior with a military-like rhetoric about protecting government and order, as if Puerto Ricans did not have the right to speak out against the policies that affect their lives.

The ACLU called the situation on the island a human rights crisis and plans to release a report at the end of August.

In the meantime, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is already carrying out an investigation of the allegations. The DOJ must ensure that law enforcement agencies bodies in the island establish clear policies to respect civil rights.

Puerto Rican officials blatantly suggested to the visiting delegation that police abuse is the business of only Puerto Ricans living on the island. But they should know that Puerto Ricans on the mainland and others concerned about civil rights are closely monitoring the actions and will not remain silent.