PRPD Also Close to Settling ACLU Lawsuit Over Police Abuse of Protesters
July 17, 2013
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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed a legally binding consent decree announced today between the U.S. Justice Department and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico that will require sweeping reforms to end widespread police brutality on the island. Also today, the ACLU and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, which sued the Puerto Rico Police Department for beating peaceful protesters and other abuses, announced they are close to reaching a settlement of the lawsuit in exchange for requirements included in the DOJ settlement.
"We are very happy that at long last, the government of Puerto Rico will work together with the Justice Department to end the rampant police abuse that has plagued the island for so many years," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "We trust that this historic settlement means that Puerto Ricans will no longer have to live in fear of their own police force. A court-enforceable agreement like this ensures that the PRPD will be held accountable if it fails to overhaul its policies and practices."
In June 2012, the ACLU and Kirkland sued the PRPD for violating the constitutional rights of protesters who were beaten during demonstrations protesting mass layoffs of public workers and public university cutbacks. The case will be settled on the condition that the consent decree included a provision requiring the independent PRPD monitor to meet with civil society groups in order to obtain input on proposed policies and implementation plans. In addition, the Puerto Rican government will encourage the monitor to meet with the lawsuit's plaintiffs – a labor union and the University of Puerto Rico's university students association.
"We are glad that our clients and groups that have been victimized by the police department will have a voice in these sorely-needed reforms," said Marjorie Lindblom, an attorney with Kirkland. "This settlement will protect Puerto Ricans' ability to exercise their First Amendment rights freely."
The Justice Department began its investigation into police abuses after they were highlighted by the ACLU. In June 2012, the ACLU released a report that documented rampant police abuse and a systemic lack of accountability in the PRPD, which is the second-largest police department in the U.S. The report found that the department was pervaded by a culture of unrestrained brutality as well as a failure to crack down on sexual assault, domestic violence, and murders of women by their partners.
The ACLU's report and multimedia content are available here.