Justice Department sues Puerto Rico police, alleging racial bias

27.07.2013 03:19

-- The U.S. Justice Department said
Monday it is suing Puerto Rico's police
department for discrimination, alleging a
female officer suffered three years of
harassment for her race, color and religion.
The allegations are the latest in a series of
claims against the commonwealth's troubled
police force, and they follow an agreement
last week between the Justice Department
and Puerto Rico to reform the island's
17,000-strong force.
The suit alleges the PRPD, the nation's
second-largest police department, subjected
officer Yolanda Carrasquillo to verbal
harassment from 2007 to 2010, violating Title
VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It says a civilian co-worker "regularly used
racial and other offensive slurs directed
towards Carrasquillo, and other black or
dark-skinned employees, that disparaged her
race, color and Christian faith." The verbal
abuse happened daily and was often in front
of police supervisors, the suit says.
Carrasquillo made numerous complaints to
her supervisors, but the department never
took any meaningful steps to stop the
harassment or discipline the person
responsible, the Justice Department said. The
department failed to follow its own anti-
harassment policy that requires supervisors
to prevent and stop discriminatory behavior
after they become aware of it, the suit says.
CNN reached the spokeswoman for the police
department's superintendent, who said she
would call back if he was able to make a
comment. There was no reply by late Monday.
The Justice Department's lawsuit seeks
monetary damages for Carrasquillo and asks
the PRPD to develop and implement policies
that would prevent employees from being
subjected to harassment on the basis of race,
color or religion.
Carrasquillo originally filed a discrimination
charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission, which referred the
matter to the Justice Department.
"Public employers should set an example for
others by upholding the law and taking
prompt and effective action to stop
discriminatory harassment," said Jocelyn
Samuels, the principal deputy assistant
attorney general for the department's Civil
Rights Division.
Last week, the Justice Department and Puerto
Rico signed a major civil rights agreement to
fix a pattern of police misconduct by the
PRPD, mostly relating to the department's
interaction with the public. It is pending final
approval by a federal judge.
The pact covers 11 core areas including use
of force, searches and seizures, equal
protection, civilian complaints, training and
supervision. An earlier Justice Department
investigation uncovered evidence that
officers failed to adequately investigate
sexual assault and domestic violence