The unusual fact that the police was in possession of the vehicle, in which the body of a person reported as missing was found, strengthens the urgency of providing the police with the tools that guarantee a rigorous and impeccable performance.
In the most immediate term, authorities have the ministerial and moral duty to transparently explain Francisco Chevres Rivera's family – and the rest of the island –, the causes of his death and the circumstances that delayed finding him inside the vehicle.
While dozens of volunteers and officers were looking for the Electric Power Authority employee, his truck was in police custody since it was occupied at the scene of an accident. Those responsible will have to answer for the irregularities and inconsistencies of this unprecedented chain of events.
The administration of justice relies, among other things, on police expertise immune to negligence and any other irregularity. Applying the protocols correctly according to the events that motivate the intervention as well as using skills and objectivity in investigating are key to process and solve the cases.
The sad circumstances surrounding the death of Chevres Rivera force us to stress the importance of urgently correcting Police deficiencies that the government of Puerto Rico itself has recognized in the reform agreement signed with the US Department of Justice.
The compliance process, which is monitored by Federal Court, must be undertaken with the utmost seriousness. The foundations for the proper professionalization of the Police are laid for the benefit of families like Chevres Rivera, who claim for explanations and justice.
Episodes like this one add to citizen’s distrust in institutions that are supposed to ensure their safety. They add to the demoralization within the Police itself, which shows in the exodus and the shortage of new officers. They are a source of shame for the Police and of dismay for the people.
For all the above it is crucial for the government to implement a series of cultural, operational, structural, investigative and educational changes to improve the performance of “La Uniformada” (Puerto Rico Police). Federal justice has detected serious deficiencies in eleven areas, including the use of excessive force and citizens rights violations. The need to implement urgent remedies to the lack of rigor in investigations joins this list.
It is necessary to assess the skills of police officers regarding procedures and handling documentation that they are supposed to know. It must also be established if these are adequate to promptly and correctly respond to situations. Reviewing the supervision task should be part of the Police work reformulation.
The reform moves at a slow pace, despite the Federal Court and monitor Arnaldo Claudio’s oversight. Federal judge Gustavo Gelpí ordered the next police academy to start in February. We hope that this group of recruits will help to forge the new Police. But it will be just a drop in the sea if existing inefficiencies are not addressed urgently.
It is up to the state authorities to comply with the terms of the reform. Judge Gelpí has warned that he will not accept further delays and that the non-compliance of the agreement may entail sanctions and even intervening the department.
Puerto Rico has to bet on a well-trained and diligent police force. The prevention of criminal activities and the administration of justice depend on this.
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