Puerto Rico
Head of state
Barack H. Obama
Head of government
Luis G. Fortuño
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
Population
4 million

A federal Justice Department investigation found a pattern of ill-treatment by officers of the Puerto Rico Police Department.

Police

In September, the US Justice Department issued a report documenting a “pattern and practice” of abuses by the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), including excessive force and unjustified shootings resulting in numerous injuries and deaths, and illegal searches and seizures. It found, among other things, that the police were responsible for the indiscriminate use of chemical agents, batons and other force against student demonstrators at the Sheraton Hotel, San Juan, in May 2010.

The report also noted “troubling evidence” that the PRPD failed to adequately police incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence, and routinely discriminated against people of Dominican descent.

The findings were the result of a three-year investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and included 133 recommendations for reform, including better training, policies and supervision. These were under review at the end of the year.

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Freedom of expression

The Justice Department report documented a pattern of police attacks on non-violent protesters and journalists in a manner “designed to suppress” the right to freedom of speech, guaranteed under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

In May, Amnesty International Puerto Rico discovered that access to its website had been blocked to students using the Department of Education’s computers. Although the block was subsequently lifted following protests by Amnesty International, the search term “advocacy” remained blocked by the Department at the end of the year.

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