- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2014

Amid protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that police are overstepping their authority, the Justice Department announced Monday that a group of officers in Puerto Rico stepped over the legal line and actually became criminals themselves.

The 16 officers broke into the homes of suspected criminals in order “to steal money, property and drugs for their own personal enrichment,” a department press release said, adding that the officers often sold drugs themselves.

All officers pleaded guilty to charges ranging from robbery to extortion, but a sentencing date has not been announced.

“These 16 police officers were charged with fighting crime, protecting lives and property, and improving the quality of life in Puerto Rico,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. “Instead, they used their badges and guns to do the opposite, committing crimes, endangering lives, and stealing property under the veil of police authority.”

The officers were also easily bribed, Justice officials said.

“They planted evidence to make false arrests, and then extorted money from their victims in exchange for their release from custody,” the release said. “Additionally, in exchange for bribe payments, the officers gave false testimony, manipulated court records and failed to appear in court when required so that criminal cases would be wrongfully dismissed.”

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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