Puerto Rico Police Chief Resigns in Face of Allegations of Police Brutality

July 2, 2011 2:51 pm

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Preliminary Findings of ACLU Investigation Exposed Efforts by Government and Police Officials to Quash Puerto Ricans’ Constitutional Rights

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Associated Press is reporting today that Puerto Rico’s police chief, Jose Figueroa Sancha, is stepping down after less than three years on the job in the face of the U.S. territory’s rising murder rate and increasing allegations of police brutality.

The resignation comes just weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union released its initial findings from an in-depth investigation revealing a violent pattern of police misconduct against the citizens of Puerto Rico that raises troubling questions about the Puerto Rican government’s commitment to First Amendment protections and human rights standards. The ACLU’s preliminary findings show that the government, and particularly the Puerto Rico Police Department, has systematically sought to violently quash protestors’ constitutionally protected expression and the rights of reporters to cover news stories. The ACLU’s preliminary report also documents numerous unpunished cases of police brutality during the past five years against low-income communities and communities of African and Dominican descent.

A congressional briefing Tuesday, July 12, at 10 a.m. EDT in room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building will center on the ongoing police abuses in Puerto Rico.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU:

“While we welcome new leadership for Puerto Rico’s police department, today’s resignation of its police chief will not solve the deep systemic problems that have plagued Puerto Rico for years. The violent crackdowns on students, labor leaders, journalists and other residents of Puerto Rico by the Puerto Rican police are emblematic of a broad lack of commitment by leaders across the U.S. commonwealth to upholding core constitutional principles and human rights. The problem of unconscionable police brutality in Puerto Rico existed before the current police chief’s appointment, and it will not be resolved with his departure. There is no place in Puerto Rico or anywhere else in America for the severe abuses documented by the ACLU, and it is imperative that Puerto Rico’s political leaders commit to immediate reform.”

Additional information about the ACLU’s work to combat the police brutality in Puerto Rico can be found at: www.aclu.org/puertorico

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