SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Friday May 30, 2014 – Sixteen current and former Puerto Rican police officers have been arrested by federal authorities on corruption charges that include allegedly planting evidence to make false arrests, extortion, and taking bribes to protect drug dealers.
If convicted, the suspected rogue cops could face up to life in prison for charges that also include racketeering and robbery.
According to FBI special agent Carlos Cases, many of the officers are members of a drug-fighting unit in Puerto Rico’s police department.
Cases compared the lawmen’s alleged exploits to the 2001 Denzel Washington film “Training Day,” which depicted a corrupt police narcotics squad.
The special agent added that the local officers allegedly operated like a criminal gang, using their guns and badges to commit extortion, robbery, and illegal narcotics sales.
According to David O’Neil, acting assistant general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, “The indictment portrays a classic criminal shakedown, an organized crime spree of which the most experienced mafia family would have been proud.
“The people wielding the guns and stealing the drugs here weren’t mob goodfellas or mafia soldiers – these were police officers,” O’Neil added.
Puerto Rico’s police department has long been rocked by charges of misconduct and plagued with corruption cases.
In October 2010, 90 law enforcement officers were among 130 people arrested by the FBI for providing protection to drug dealers.
An agreement announced last July between Puerto Rico’s government and the US Justice Department includes new rules for internal investigations and the handling of civilian complaints.
The agreement also introduces strict new policies on the use of force by police officers to combat the commonwealth’s high crime levels, and focuses on recruitment and training, as well as new measures to strengthen oversight of the 17,000-member police force.