Puerto Rico police targeted in anti-corruption arrests

by Reuters
Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:06 GMT

SAN JUAN, May 22 (Reuters) - Federal authorities arrested 16 Puerto Rican police officers on corruption-related charges in the latest black eye for law enforcement on the island, Police Superintendent José Caldero announced on local radio on Thursday morning.

FBI spokeswoman Moises Quiñones said the charges were sealed and that the case involved 16 government workers and was related to public corruption. More details will be given at an 11 a.m. EDT press conference.

Police Captain Juan Garcia, the head of the Drug Division, told El Nuevo Día newspaper that three drug division officers from different areas were among the arrested. He said the arrests took place in the San Juan metropolitan area, Yauco, in southwest Puerto Rico and Canovanas, just east of San Juan.

The Caribbean island's police department has long been plagued with corruption cases and has also been roiled by charges of misconduct.

In October 2010, the FBI arrested 130 people, including 90 law enforcement officers, for providing protection to island drug dealers.

Last July, the Puerto Rico government and the U.S. Justice Department announced an agreement to make sweeping changes in Puerto Rico's Police Department aimed at curbing violence and abuse within its ranks and settling a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the department in December.

The agreement, which officials say will require a $200 million investment and 10 years to enact, includes new rules for the handling of civilian complaints and internal investigations, and introduces strict new policies on the use of force by police officers in the crime-plagued commonwealth.

It also focuses on recruitment and training, and contains new measures to strengthen oversight of the 17,000-member police force. (By Reuters reporter in San Juan; editing by David Adams and Andrew Hay)

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