The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the government of Puerto Rico have agreed to sweeping changes to the commonwealth’s large and troubled Police Department intended to help overcome a history of discrimination, violence and corruption, reports the New York Times. In a 102-page consent decree filed to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit, Justice Department officials and the departing governor of Puerto Rico, Luis G. Fortuño, agreed to far-reaching changes in the way the 17,000-member force recruits, trains, promotes and oversees its officers. This includes strict new policies on the use of force, police interactions with gay and transgender Puerto Ricans, the department’s approach to domestic violence and its handling of civilian complaints.
Both sides agreed to delay putting the changes in place for several months to give the administration of the incoming governor, Alejandro García Padilla, an opportunity to review and adopt it — or propose changes. The subject is also subject to judicial approval. The agreement follows a 116-age report the Civil Rights Division issued last year accusing the Police Department of systematically “using force, including deadly force, when no force or lesser force was called for,” unnecessarily injuring hundreds of people and killing “numerous others.” Critics of the Police Department have long complained that the force is largely corrupt, often inefficient and sometimes ruthless.