The Federal Monitor states that “officers used less-than-lethal force against civilians in dangerous and indiscriminate ways during the July 2019 protests, often after crowds were already dispersing.”
This is included in the second Police Reform compliance report, submitted the day before yesterday by federal monitor John Romero, which also highlights deficiencies in the areas of oversight and management, technological advances, and community participation, and public information, among others.
The 210-page report was submitted to Federal Judge Gustavo Gelpí and covers the period from July 2019 to March 2020. It is a requirement included in the Reform or consent agreement reached in 2013.
“On certain occasions, PRPB officers used force in response to mass demonstration incidents in ways that violated the Agreement,” Romero stated in his report, referring to the protests in the summer of 2019, which ended in the resignation of former Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.
“PRPB officers further combined multiple use of force incidents under one report for each location in these mass demonstrations, which is not in keeping with generally accepted police practices and violates the spirit and text of the Agreement,” he added.
In the same line, the monitor mentioned that, although the police have implemented “the most recent recommendations of the Monitor’s Office,” there are “serious discrepancies in bureau-wide reporting of use of force numbers for the thirteen Area Commands.” Therefore, he requested - and the La Uniformada welcomed – to modify the form and the monitoring system on the use of force before a report number is generated. Romero is waiting for the results of this effort.
On the other hand, the report highlights that the Police lacks “front-line supervisors” (sergeants), which leads to inexperienced officers taking on this role. Romero urged to deploy “an adequate number” of “qualified” sergeants so that there is “close and effective” supervision, and misconduct is identified, corrected, and prevented.
He also indicated that “Progress on information technology remains behind the schedule established by the Agreement.” Therefore, he added, the police has “not progressed to the point where PRPB can successfully leverage” these systems to complete their mandates.
“For PRPB to effectively monitor its members’ use of force, it must have accurate and timely information. PRPB must also be transparent and provide that information to the residents of Puerto Rico upon request,” said Romero, who stated that the agency has “minimally implemented” community and conflict resolution strategies in its areas.
Romero acknowledged progress or partial compliance with the reform in the areas of searches and seizures, recruitment, anti-discrimination policies, training, and internal investigations.