Federal Judge Gustavo Gelpí appointed a “special master” to seek compliance with the Police reform in Puerto Rico. That seems a successful step forward towards the goal of a better-trained police force to serve justice and protect civil rights.
Alejandro del Carmen will identify the causes of the problems that still persist in the Police, despite the 2013 agreement between the Government of Puerto Rico and the US Department of Justice to professionalize the Police, implement greater internal controls and improve the relationships with the community.
Six years after the federal report, that detailed unacceptable patterns of citizen mistreatment, especially to minorities, the Police still show significant delays in the implementation of structural changes. The leadership and administration crisis persists.
Del Carmen has the responsibility to recommend solutions to deficiencies in compliance with operational and structural changes, in order to improve officer’s behavior during the performance of their duties. Del Carmen´s role will place “La Uniformada” in the accountability area, partly, through the use of statistical analysis, where he is an expert. Police improvement must contribute to public safety.
To fulfill these goals, Del Carmen will also have to use his more than 20 years experience in criminology. His experience in the New Orleans Police reform process should be very helpful. According to Gelpí, this has important points of tangency with the Puerto Rican Police reform.
The work of the team led by Federal Monitor Arnaldo Claudio during the last years will also be an important reference. Del Carmen was also part of that team. His new role will complement the Monitor's technical assistance, which focuses on identifying and reporting to Court those matters that must be addressed.
In his most recent report, Claudio pointed out that the progress of the reforms is unsatisfactory. He specifically mentioned that failures in data collection and reporting limit the ability of the Police to identify training needs and investigate complaints against officers. He also found deficiencies in terms of professionalization and supervision. He noted that leadership and administration failures persist.
In this scenario, Del Carmen will require the support of high-ranking police officers, other sister agencies, unions and citizens. It will be the way to overcome the "special circumstances" that "La Uniformada" is going through, clearly indicated by Gelpí who oversees the reform process.
Some advances are on track. The Oversight Board expressed that it would approve some budget moves for the operation of the Police. Additional funds will allow to advance on the pending agenda, which includes an academy that will provide training under the reform agreement parameters. Resources reorganization, including human capital, is an essential piece to promote best practices, raise professional standards and stress management. Violence and police corruption have no place in public service.
Facing criminal activity requires a well-trained and equipped police force, respectful of civil rights and empathetic with citizens.
Therefore, it is important that citizens and communities participate in the new public hearing process that Federal Court set on Thursday. The reform is a crucial part of the fight against crime. We trust that Del Carmen arrival to the reform process will add confidence to the integrity and skills and capabilities of the Police to guarantee public safety.
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