Local September 8, 2011 | 10:03 am

Puerto Rico Police target Dominicans, Washington says

Santo Domingo.- A long pattern of violating citizens’ constitutional rights through excessive force and unwarranted searches and “routine” harassment of people of Dominican descent plague Puerto Rico’s police department, affirms a report to be released by the Justice Department Thursday.

A Department’s civil rights division analysis states that the U.S. territory’s police force is "broken in a number of critical and fundamental respects."

The report, which The New York Times obtained a copy before its official release, says bucking the trend of decreasing crime in the United States, violent crime in Puerto Rico jumped 17% from 2007 to 2009, when the territory in past years issues such as the cost of public education and job cuts also led a number of large protests. “Police confronted these challenges with too heavy a hand.”

Puerto Rico’s police used chemical agents in response to student protests in August 2009, it said, and included batons and physical force against protesters. It said the protesters at other demonstrations have been met with choke holds and rocks thrown by police. “Puerto Rico has used excessive force that has violated and suppressed people’s right to exercise free speech.”

The Justice Department says there’s also evidence of unlawful search and seizure, a Fourth Amendment violation.

It said many of the abuses come from the police department’s strategy of sending tactical officers for community policing,

The Justice Department report also found that the department fails to police sex crimes and cases of domestic violence, and discriminates by targeting people of Dominican descent. "We find that these deficiencies will lead to constitutional violations unless they are addressed."

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