Police told to end their practice of arbitrary night club raids

The security ministry got its hand slapped by the constitutional court in a decision announced Wednesday over the policy of raiding night clubs.

Operators of the Club Oh! brought the case before the Sala IV of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. The business caters to gays, and the proprietors claimed that police were involved in homophobia behavior when they raided the club last April.

However, what happened at this club was the same that happened at the Del Rey and the nearby Key Largo in the same weekend.

The Sala IV warned the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública not to repeat the actions that brought the appeal.

There were parallels between what happened at Club Oh! and at the Key Largo and Hotel Del Rey. Police entered, sealed off the exits and began checking identifications of those present. In the case of the Del Rey and the Key Largo, reported last April 16, officers were accompanied by volunteers of the Fundación Rahab, which provides training for former prostitutes.  Women present in the two locations were required to submit to an interview and fill out a form with identification information.

There was  no mention of the participation of Rahab volunteers in the summary of the Club Oh! appeal. However, the club appeal claimed that it was only in its location that police behaved in this way, according to a summary.

Police harassment of customers in the Del Rey goes back years, and many persons can recount being locked in while police checked identifications. Other times, the police do not prevent persons from leaving if they have first had their identification checked.

In one case more than 100 police officers in all types of vehicles blocked the streets and descended on the Del Rey one Friday evening in time for the then-security minister, Janina del Veccio, to do a standup in front of the building for evening television news shows. Police managed to collar two foreign women who may have been in the country illegally.

According to the Club Oh! appeal, police left behind at that establishment a form saying that everything was in order.

Municipal police or other municipal officials sometimes accompany the Fuerza Pública in these night club raids.

The idea is to suggest that a main reason for the raid is to check and make sure the business is in compliance with municipal licensing. Of course, that data would be found easily at the municipal offices.

At the time of the raids at the Key Largo and the Del Rey, police officers said that they had taken the same action at other locations, but they did not specify which ones.

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