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.