Last Saturday, Puerto Rico police chief Jose Figueroa Sancha resigned. Sancha, who worked for the FBI for 23 years before becoming police chief in November 2008, is leaving the post in the midst of a crime wave and criticism of the department's use of excessive force by police on peaceful protestors, Dominican immigrants, and low-income and black Puerto Ricans, as we have extensively documented. Police have beaten, pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed student and labor protestors. The abuses are legion, and have been largely ignored by both the Puerto Rican and U.S. governments.
Today, the ACLU, along with LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Institute for Latino Policy, ran ads in Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly Today asking Congress to speak out against these abuses and make clear that as this kind of violent restriction of constitutionally protected rights would not be tolerated on the mainland, so it should not be tolerated in Puerto Rico.
Congress should also call on the Department of Justice to bring its ongoing investigation of the Puerto Rico Police Department, which was initiated in July 2008, to a close and issue its findings. Sancha's resignation will not fix the problem of systemic police abuse and brutality that predated his appointment and continued on his watch.
Our organizations will be having a congressional briefing on July 12 at 10 a.m. in 2226 Rayburn, at which we will preview findings of a forthcoming ACLU report that documents the severity and scope of police abuse on a level that shocks the conscious. Under the U.S. Constitution, Puerto Ricans are entitled to the same rights and protections as all U.S. citizens.