SAN JUAN – FBI agents on Thursday arrested 16 current and former members of the Puerto Rico Police Department on corruption charges.
The accused, among whom are two sergeants, arrested civilians and seized drugs from them which they later sold, U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez said.
“The criminal action today dismantles an entire network of officers who, we allege, used their badges and their guns not to uphold the law, but to break it,” said Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General David O’Neil said.
The suspects, Rodriguez-Velez said, “not only betrayed the citizens they were sworn to protect, they also betrayed the thousands of honest, hard-working law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe.”
“Today is a sad day for Puerto Rico, where a group of police officers allegedly disgraced their uniform and are a shame to the Police of Puerto Rico,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Carlos Cases said.
The arrests came a day after the leaders of Puerto Rico’s House and Senate, Jaime Perello and Eduardo Bhatia, respectively, met with new PRPD chief Jose Caldero to monitor the process of reforming the troubled force.
The reform of the PRPD was launched after the judicial agreement reached between San Juan and the Department of Justice as a result of a 2011 report by the ACLU asserting that between 2005 and 2010 almost 2,000 local police officers committed assorted crimes.
One year earlier, the FBI had undertaken in Puerto Rico one of the largest operations in its history against police corruption linked with drug trafficking.