Captain Elmer Román is taking office as Public Safety Secretary tomorrow, May 1, with a challenging agenda. His leadership, planning, organizational and communication skills will be essential to complete his task. The achievements will also depend on the cooperation of the Police and the different sectors of society.
In the short-term, he will have to ensure that this year's International Workers' Day reflects that free and peaceful democratic expression is both the responsibility of those who participate in the events and of law enforcement authorities.
It is the responsibility of those organizing the events to ensure that participants do not engage in behavior that endangers public integrity or property.
Meanwhile, it is Román and Police Commissioner Henry Escalera’s task to ensure that their agents follow the protocols on assemblies and demonstrations, and any intervention that may be necessary. Everyone´s collaboration is vital to ensure the much-needed balance between protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association and preserving public order.
Meetings between the new Safety secretary and Police high-ranking officers to coordinate the efforts for the International Worker’s day are a positive sign.
In general terms, having clear lines of authority and open channels of communication will surely pave the way for the new head of Public Safety, starting with complying with the eleven pillars of the Police reform. According to monitor Arnaldo Claudio, there are significant delays in the implementation of the action plans.
The transformation of the Police must, therefore, be a priority as a tool to correct deficiencies and to combat demotivation in the force. 2,000 officers have left the Police recently.
An important starting point is the modernization of the education model for the Police, which applies to the 2019 class of the new academy. Investigative expertise, strategies to prevent criminal activity, technology as a tool, and the implementation of respect for civil rights are crucial parts of the training of new cadets.
The challenges include ensuring that the seven bureaus of the Department of Public Safety work in a coordinated fashion to effectively implement strategies against crime and emergencies. Aware that his role is to establish strategic guidelines and directives, Román is right in allowing the heads of the bureaus to work on the operational aspects of the transformation. Thus, his position respects the leadership of the bureaus and allows them to make decisions in their areas of expertise. The heads of the bureaus must respond to this important sign fo trust with the best performance.
In addition, Roman's decision to establish effective collaboration with the Oversight Board and the officials in charge of the island's budget must open communication paths to overcome financial and administrative challenges.
In that regard, we are confident that his background will help the new Secretary to advance his priority agenda: consolidating the bureaus and complying with the agreement to reform the Police, with substantial modernization and proper management.
This line includes merging administrative functions, such as hiring and human resources, to provide essential support for operational management.
Demonstrating that the Department of Public Safety can respond to Puerto Rico´s aspirations of progress and social peace - with an efficient agency- should be the goal of the new leadership. Organizations and communities must respond with attitudes that contribute to peace.