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As police officers rally to demand pension hikes, they are added to gov’t health plan


Protesters said they have seen little progress since an agreement was announced In January between the Financial Oversight and Management Board and the administration of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi to work together on enhancing benefits for police officers. (Photo Courtesy of Gabriel Hernández)

By The Star Staff


Dozens of police officers protested Monday at the Capitol to demand an increase in their pensions, but got a partial victory as they were added as beneficiaries to the health care plan.


“The state of the police at this time is chaotic,” Puerto Rican Police Union President Ismael Rivera said. “We have people receiving monthly pensions of $500 or $600. Nobody can live on that in Puerto Rico.”


The protest forced other police officers to divert traffic onto Muñoz Rivera Avenue.


In January, the Financial Oversight and Management Board announced it had reached an agreement with the administration of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to work together over the succeeding 60 days on enhancing benefits for police officers, including health benefits. Protesters said that has not happened yet.


The protesters urged Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago to collect the needed signatures to send Senate Bill 1119 to the governor’s desk. Instead, they said, the bill went to a conference committee, where representatives and senators approved it.


“The bill amends current law to set aside 60% of the 22.5% of the revenues from gaming machines that go to the Puerto Rican government to solve and improve the compensation for policemen’s retirement,” Rivera said. “We are demanding that the governor sign this bill into law so these collections can begin to improve the retirement compensation for police officers.”


The benefit would cover all police officers, including those who retired over the past year, he added.


While the status of their pensions remains up in the air, a senator announced police officers will be part of the government health care plan.


Sen. Rubén Soto Rivera announced that active and retired police officers -- commonwealth and municipal -- will be able to request the government health plan after the governor signed into law Senate Bill 140, which Soto Rivera authored, that sought to add them as beneficiaries.


“We are very happy to be able to announce that it is now law; it is a great achievement that the members of the Puerto Rico Police and the municipal police, their spouses and children can be beneficiaries of the government health plan,” said Soto Rivera, who chairs the Senate Health Committee. “A year after filing the bill, and holding public hearings demonstrating the need for the police to have a medical plan, the governor was able to affix his signature and turn this bill into law.”


The senator noted that the benefit will remain in force even if the commonwealth or municipal police force member dies for any reason.

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