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Case Name United States v. Puerto Rico PN-PR-0001
Docket / Court 3:12-cv-02039 ( D.P.R. )
State/Territory Puerto Rico
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On December 21, 2012, after a thorough investigation, the United States, represented by the Department of Justice (DOJ), filed suit against the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its police department pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. § 14141). The ... read more >
On December 21, 2012, after a thorough investigation, the United States, represented by the Department of Justice (DOJ), filed suit against the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its police department pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. § 14141). The Government alleged that the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRDP) violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments by engaging in unlawful patterns and practices. Filed along with the complaint was a joint motion for the Court to approve a comprehensive settlement agreement between the parties and also a motion to stay the proceedings.

Specifically, the Government claimed the PRDP engaged in the following practices: using excessive force during routine police activities; relying on unreasonable force in response to public demonstrations; conducting unlawful searches and seizures; and engaging in discriminatory police practices against those who are or appear to be of Dominican origin. The Government further alleged that those practices were the result of longstanding, widespread failures of the department, including inadequate and ineffective investigation and discipline procedures, supervision, and training, as well as officer violence and corruption.

On December 27, 2012, the Court (Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi) granted the motion to stay the proceedings in order to allow the recently elected government to familiarize itself with the agreement and make modifications. And, on January 18, 2013, the Government filed an amended complaint that removed reference to Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory of the United States. This was because, under an old line of Supreme Court cases that established what is known as the Incorporation Doctrine, acquired territories were not necessarily protected by the Constitution and were considered not to be a part of the United States: Congress had the power to decide when/whether to incorporate the territory, which would bestow certain Constitutional status upon the territory.

On April 1, 2013, the ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of the proposed settlement agreement, explaining the results of its own investigations in Puerto Rico, endorsing the comprehensive approach of the agreement, and suggesting a few possible improvements. Puerto Rico's Attorney Gregorio Igartua also filed an amicus brief, except he failed to take up the issue of whether Puerto Rico was an incorporated territory. He argued that the Court could not render a decision in the case without declaring Puerto Rico to be an incorporated territory because the United States was imposing upon Puerto Rico the burdens of full obligation to the Constitution while selectively withholding Constitutional rights, such as representation and voting power in Congress and greater ability to claim access to federal funds, such as federal funding for anti-crime policies.

On July 17, 2013, the parties filed a modified settlement agreement along with a joint motion for dismissal. On the same day, the court (Deputy Clerk Carlos Rodriguez) conditionally dismissed the case while retaining jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement. The 101-page agreement provides a comprehensive set of provisions touching on nearly every aspect of the police department ( PN-PR-0001-0007). It calls for the development of policies on, among other things, the use of force, crowd control and public demonstrations, searches and seizures, and equal protection. It requires better pre-service training and education as well as continued training once recruits become police officers. It contains an array of investigatory, supervisory, and discipline obligations, as well as auditing procedures. To address community concerns, the agreement establishes a commitment to more appropriate community policing and establishes joint boards of police officers and community representatives. In an effort to nondiscriminatory policing it also requires PRPD to establish the information systems and collect all information necessary to accomplish the goals of the agreement. Under the agreement, Puerto Rico is required to hire a Technical Compliance advisor to monitor and report on the departments progress in meeting the goals and requirements of the agreement. The agreement would last at least 10 years, after which time either party could file for termination of the agreement. However, if Puerto Rico filed for termination, it would have the burden of demonstrating that it had fully and effectively complied with the agreement for at least two consecutive years.

On October 30, 2013, upon joint motion of the parties, the court appointed Juan Mattos, Jr. as the Technical Compliance Advisor. The first compliance report was filed with the court on August 1, 2014 and was ordered to be made public on August 8, 2014. The report noted positive developments.

As on November 28, 2014, litigation is ongoing.

Kenneth Gray - 07/18/2013
Richard Jolly - 11/29/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Provide antidiscrimination training
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Retaliation Prohibition
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-basis
National origin discrimination
General
Aggressive behavior
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Inadequate citizen complaint investigations and procedures
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Pattern or Practice
Pepper/OC spray
Record-keeping
Search policies
National Origin/Ethnicity
Other
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 14141
Defendant(s) Puerto Rico
Plaintiff Description United States government, following an investigation by the Department of Justice of the polices and practices of the Puerto Rico Police Department
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 2013 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:12-cv-2039 (D.P.R.) 08/09/2016
PN-PR-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Findings Letter 09/05/2011
PN-PR-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
DOJ Executive Summary 09/05/2011
PN-PR-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Complaint 12/21/2012
PN-PR-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Agreement for the Sustainable Reform of the Puerto Rico Police Department 12/21/2012
PN-PR-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 12/30/2012 (D.P.R.)
PN-PR-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of Amicus Curiae in Support of Puerto Rico as an Incorporated Territory of the United States 03/26/2013
PN-PR-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of the American Civil Liberties Union as Amicus Curiae 04/01/2013
PN-PR-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Agreement for the Sustainable Reform of the Puerto Rico Police Department [Second] 07/17/2013
PN-PR-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment 07/17/2013 (D.P.R.)
PN-PR-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Minutes of Proceedings and Order 07/17/2013 (D.P.R.)
PN-PR-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Approving Selection of Technical Compliance Advisor] 10/30/2013 (D.P.R.)
PN-PR-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion Submitting PRPD’S Progress Report on the Agreement on the Sustainable Reform 08/01/2014
PN-PR-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Gelpi, Gustavo Antonio Jr. (D.P.R.) [Magistrate]
PN-PR-0001-0009 | PN-PR-0001-0011 | PN-PR-0001-0012 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Austin, Roy L. (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0002 | PN-PR-0001-0003 | PN-PR-0001-0007
Buehler, Brian D. (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-9000
Garcia, Lynda (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-9000
Holder, Eric H. Jr. (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0007
Lopez, Zazy I (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0007 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Perez, Sergio (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0002 | PN-PR-0001-0003 | PN-PR-0001-0007 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0002 | PN-PR-0001-0003 | PN-PR-0001-0007
Saucedo, Luis E. (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0002 | PN-PR-0001-0003 | PN-PR-0001-0007 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0002 | PN-PR-0001-0003 | PN-PR-0001-0007
Trepel, Samantha Kay (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0002 | PN-PR-0001-0003 | PN-PR-0001-9000
West, Tony (District of Columbia)
PN-PR-0001-0007
Defendant's Lawyers Annexy-Guevara, Beatriz (California)
PN-PR-0001-0010 | PN-PR-0001-9000
De Jesus Annoni, Gerardo A. (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0007 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Del Valle Cruz, Carlos A. (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0007 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Marxuach Torros, Gilberto J (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0007
Sanchez Betances, Luis (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0007
Torres-Ortiz, Joel (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Gonzalez-Ortiz, Josue (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0005 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Igartua, Gregorio (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0006 | PN-PR-0001-9000
Inserni-Milam, Frank D. (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-9000
Klugman, Maura M (New York)
PN-PR-0001-0005
Lindblom, Marjorie P. (New York)
PN-PR-0001-0005
Ramirez-Hernandez, William (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0005
Vargas-Acosta, Nora (Puerto Rico)
PN-PR-0001-0005
Wizner, Ben (New York)
PN-PR-0001-0005
Yanez, Leopoldo J (New York)
PN-PR-0001-0005

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