Saturday, November 12, 2005

Policia

There is a certain segment of populace living here that believe we should only highlight the "positive." I, unfortunately, do not subscribe to that train of thought. I believe that most people are intelligent and can make decisions for themselves. As Oprah says, "knowledge is power."

To that end, I got an email the other day from J. Hunter, a Monaga client. The last couple of times he visited the island he had some run-ins with the police. The police here make an average of RD$5,000 pesos (about $150 U.S.) per month. One of the ways they supplement their income is to try and extort money from the citizens and tourists alike. Don't get me wrong, not all police here are bad. I have met some really good police officials, but unfortunately, it is a problem here and again, knowledge is the key.

If you have done nothing wrong then you should NEVER give the police money. All it does is mark you. Once you are marked as someone who pays the police they will always try and harass you, in hopes of you just giving them money to go away.

Here are some tips. You should always have a copy of your passport with you at all times. Make sure it is a good copy, preferably in color. If you are walking in the Colonial Zone and are stopped by police, don't get belligerent or act ignant, BUT don't be intimidated either. If you have done nothing wrong (have no drugs on you, not with someone underage) you don't really have anything to worry about. Stand your ground. Now, sometimes you will have some really bold criminal cops who will threaten to take you to jail. Don't worry, tell them let's go. Let them know that when you get there you want to call the embassy. This usually does the trick and you are let go. The area is usually patrolled by the same cops and you will be known as the one NOT to fuck with. This is something that usually happens at night.

The other thing that they will try and do is if you are walking with a local Dominican, who they know is a buggaron, then they will try and detain him. Again, in the hope that you will pay them off to leave you both alone. Don't give them any money. You will be marked and anytime they see you walking at night with someone they will try and arrest him so that you can give them money.

The same scam is done if you are driving a car at night. There are 2 sets of police that can pull you over when you are driving. One is AMET, the traffic cops. I have never had a traffic cop ask me for money, nor have I heard of anyone else being asked for money from them either. They wear a light green uniform, and their car is a light kelly green color. The other police that will pull you over are the National Police, and that is where you will get the shakedown. Make sure all your papers are in order, and again, that you are not doing anything illegal. Once again, don't give them any money. Stand your ground.

When you are driving you should carry a copy of your license. Tell them that the original is in your safe at your hotel. When you are given a ticket, they take your license and you have to go before a judge, pay the fine and your license is returned. To say it is a hassle is putting it very mildly.

Lastly, if you find yourself at the police station, make sure to take 24-hour phone number for the U.S. Embassy's American Citizen Services, which is 809.221.2171. If you have any problems with the police you can contact the Tourist Police at 809 686-8639 and file a complaint. The only way to stop this behavior is to complain about it.

I'm not trying to alarm anyone, but I think you should be made aware of what is going on so that you can have a great time when you come to visit. Thanks again for the email Jim.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good information. This has also happened to me on my visits to Santo Domingo. Being absolutely petrified of ending up in a 3rd world jail I also paid the police so I can sympathize with this person. In the future I will keep these numbers with me at all times and if stopped will not pay them and show them the telephone numbers for the embassy and the tourist police.

This happens much more frequently than I think people believe. In coversations with other tourists I have heard similar stories every time I am in Santo Domingo so it cannot be a one time thing and not just one police officer.

Thanks Anthony for letting us know. Of course, if I do end up in prison, your the first one I am going to call!

Anonymous said...

KEEP TELLING IT LIKE IT IS. THANKS FOR INFO!

Anonymous said...

Thank You Anthony for this most useful message. I had thought I was the only one to be a target for the Policia Nacional when in the DR. I was embarrassed to tell anyone what happened to me and always paid them thinking they would leave me alone. Much to the contrary as I have been approached 4 times in my 3 visits to the DR since 2003.

I really appreciate this and I think that all of us gay tourists should begin to now stand up for our rights and follow Anthony's recommendation to complain about it. I did make mention of it happening at my Hotel but they did not want to get involved and did not offer any recommended action or solution to the problem. Anthony now has provided us with what we need to do and I will follow his advise and call the places if it ever happens to me again.

Anonymous said...

Should I be aware that some cops might pose as Buggarons?

How can I be sure the guy im picking up is not a cop?

The police just stared at me the last time I was in Santo Domingo, but I guess because I look hispanic cop.(6'2" tall, Puerto Rican from NYC). Nelson Diaz

Omar said...

Good advice to the newbies Anothony (and for some old heads). During my first initial visit to Santo Domingo I was stopped by the police on El Conde. They thought I was a buggerone. Luckily, I had a copy of my passport in my pocket and spoke some spanish to be able to communicate somewhat with the cops. They can get a little deviant at times.

Anonymous said...

I have been visiting the Dominican Republic longer than I care to mention on this blog. During this time, I have been stopped by the police several times when driving, but never while just walking around the Colonial Zone and I am in that area frequently. Could this be the start of a trend to extort money from gay tourists?
From Puerto Rico,
Rafael

Anonymous said...

Here is a article from El Diario about increasing Tourism in the DR. It may be worthwhile to contact someone at this Asonashores and let them know about this problem with the Policia Nacional since they have the ear of the government. Maybe they can also do something to bring light to this ongoing problem:


El Diario - Friday November 11, 2005--------------------------
Tourism development agreement
The National Association of Hotels and Restaurants (Asonahores) has reached an agreement with the government, aimed at fostering the development of tourism. President Leonel Fernandez said the agreement not only benefits the tourism sector but also the country's economic and social development. According to El Caribe, the document, as read by Asonahores president Enrique de Marchena Kaluche, states that tourism is the productive activity with the broadest economic repercussions. The agreement includes a different VAT (ITBIS) rate for hotel rooms, which cannot be higher than 10%. It also allows for a once a year tax-free rate for "the replacement of equipment necessary to maintain and optimum quality of service".
Diario Libre indicates that the government and Asonahores agree to follow a common agenda to work on the sector's problems and promote a quick and safe development of tourism in the country.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like there are many who have been in this situation before. Sounds like we need to protest at the Hall of Justice during Dominican Island Heat and really bring attention to this issue.

Anonymous said...

My partner and I travel to DR much more frequently now. Since we do travel around the city day and night, usually together, I'm curious as to what situations cause the police to harass you. Is being with a bugarone a red flag? Walking alone at night and being identified as possibly gay? Jay-walking? Can anyone who posted about being harassed give more info on what caused the police to stop you? Thanks.

Also, Anthony we'll be down next month.. need anymore grits? C&J

Anonymous said...

One of the times I was stopped was when I was driving during a total daily blackout of the Colonial Zone. I was with my partner of 26 years and had not broken any laws. Because the electricity was out the traffic lights were not working and the police were directing traffic at the intersection. I guess because we had a new 2004 rental car they stopped us and started asking questions in spanish. My partner speaks passable spanish and a few other languages so he spoke with them and then they asked for $2000 pesos for the officers that were in the intersection to eat. We each gave them $1000 pesos and took off as fast as possible as all four cops surrounded our car. There was no reason to stop us except we were "snowbirds" and white as ghosts from the snowy winter.

Another time, we were staying at a upscale hotel on the Malecon and we had hired a tour guide to drive our rental car and show us the caverns and the aquarium and the historical sites of Santo Domingo. After about 7pm we were hungry and parked in the Colonial Zone near the Restaurant America and were all three of us walking to this very nice Dominican Creole Restaurant and had offered the guide dinner since he had been with us since 10 am that morning. He was not a buggarone just a poor soul trying to make a buck in the tourist industry the best way he could. He was recommended by the Hotel and he seemed sane and safe. I guess we looked like tourists in our shorts and tank tops but he did look very Dominican. The cop came by on a motorbike and pushed this guy up against the wall and told him to pay up. We had not yet paid the guy so he had no money. The cop turned on us and pulled his gun and told us we had to give him $500 pesos. We paid and went into the restaurant and told the Waiter and M'aitre D about the incident. They went back with us out into the street right away to report him but the cop was gone.

The third time was on our first visit to the DR and we went and turned the wrong way down a one way street but did not make the full turn onto the street. I noticed as he was turning that it was the wrong way on the one-way street and he turned back and kept going straight ahead to the next street. We were not drunk just made a little error which we quickly corrected. That was enough for a cop to stop us and tell us to pay a $1500 peso fine for beginning to turn onto a one way street the wrong way.

Those are all the instances we have had in the last 4 years but I am getting really sick of it. I contacted the American Citizens Service Unit of the US Embassy in Santo Domingo and I now know what to do and will follow their and Anthony's advice and will never pay a single peso again.

Monaga said...

There is no red flag that makes you obvious to the police here, except maybe you have some money they can extort from you. This is a problem that all Dominicans face. In the last couple of years it has gotten out of hand with them harrassing tourists in the Colonial Zone. The key is knowing your rights. If they say we have to go to the police station, GO. When you get there ask them if you can call the U.S. Embassy. You will be surprised how quickly you will be released.

They are like lions on the Serengeti plains, they look for someone who they consider weak that they can take advantage of.

Now, I want to make sure that everyone understands that I'm not saying get loud or belligerent, but don't be intimidated and stand your ground.

And yes, some of the crooked cops are also buggarons, but you want to be VERY careful about dealing with them. Again, all cops are not like that.

And C&J, no don't need anymore grits, now I'm craving for a decent bagel and some cheesecake. See you next month.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for expanding on your run-ins with police. And thank you Anthony for the sound advice on how to handle similar harassment. We will be much more aware! I also didn't know this happened to Dominicans on the regular. Que lastima!