editorial (horizontal-x3)

The most recent report about the police reform highlights the serious leadership and administration problems that disrupt their operation and mission to ensure security in Puerto Rico.

Those serious questions made by Arnaldo Claudio, the federal monitor, show the need of a thorough review of the Department of Public Security. It points at its creation, just a year ago, as responsible for a chain of failures that have generated uncertainty, distrust and polarization in the Police.

The conclusion that the umbrella department has become a new layer of bureaucracy should alert the government about the criteria for other government reorganization plans.

If the plans for the merger of agencies do not generate efficiency in administration, budget distribution and services, government reorganization will be on the way to failure. Therefore, the long-term fiscal plan and the possibilities of public finances recovery of will be affected.

As a technical advisor, Claudio clearly recognized the origin and consequences of the deficiencies that currently prevent the Police from better operation. He indicates that one of the main obstacles comes from  Public Security, headed by Héctor Pesquera.

In his seventh report, submitted to the Federal Court, Claudio states that the creation of the umbrella department has disrupted the chain of command, and undermined authority, decision-making power and scope of action from the police commissioner. Until the beginning of January, Michelle Hernández was in this position.

In his previous report, in August 2017, Claudio pointed out that there is a serious police leadership crisis that results in the dismantling of their operations. He mentioned, as he is saying now, the power struggles unleashed in the security agencies and the tensions between their leaders, as well as problems that affect the work throughout the structure.

Other recurring problems include promotions and transfers granted without justification, lack of training and crowds management plans, questionable practices for overtime allocation and not taking disciplinary action against officers with dubious disciplinary records.

On the positive side, Claudio points out that there is greater discipline and self-control, as well as notable progress from the agents in the use of force and handling incidents, protests and mass demonstrations.

Multiple allegations of civil rights violations in interventions with protesters, minors and citizens in general were precisely key triggers of the investigation that ended in a judicial agreement between the departments of Justice of Puerto Rico and the United States, in 2011.

After seven years, the persistence of these problems delays the professionalization of police corps as well as morale boosting and achievement of its agents.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló and the Legislative Assembly must consider these strong statements of the federal monitor´s report. An effective intervention is required to restore the leadership ranks and correct the Police multiple administrative and oversight failures.

It must be ensured that police services promote trust among citizens. The young department of Security must work towards this goals and not obstruct them.

The experience of this agency must serve as an example for the foundations on which a good part of the government efficiency plans should lay. The findings of the monitor´s report form a map of the errors that should be avoided in the important process of public restructuring.

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