At transition hearing, Public Safety chief outlines agency achievements, work in progress
By John McPhaul
Public Safety (DPS) Secretary Pedro Janer, participated in the government transition hearings Tuesday accompanied by the commissioners of the six DPS bureaus and their work team to report on achievements and pending projects in the agency he directs.
“The DPS’s mission is to coordinate the efforts of all the bureaus charged with the purpose of protecting, investigating and preventing criminal activities or emergency situations in Puerto Rico and working in an integrated manner with the United States national security agencies,” the DPS secretary said. “This has been possible thanks to a group of professionals committed to the Puerto Rican people, who have gone the extra mile to work on integration in a period of time in which our department has been addressing different major emergencies such as hurricanes Irma and Maria, earthquakes, the COVID-19 pandemic and other natural phenomena that, on a smaller scale, have affected Puerto Rico.”
Among the DPS’s most significant achievements at the administrative level, the secretary cited the review and approval of the department’s organizational chart, the administrative order promulgating the organizational, administrative and operational structure of the DPS, the integration in phases of personnel from the Management and Administration Area, integration of the payroll of the bureaus and the budgets into the DPS account in the Treasury, and the purchase of new vehicle fleets, uniforms and equipment for the bureaus.
Janer said work is also progressing on the “civilization” process contemplated in the Fiscal Plan. That initiative consists of the recruitment of civilian personnel to carry out administrative tasks that are currently being carried out by members of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau so that uniformed personnel can return to performing the tasks for which they were recruited and trained, increasing the number of rank system personnel providing security to the Puerto Rican people. So far, 83 new employees have been sworn in.
In addition to the recruitment of uniformed and civilian personnel for the Police Bureau, Janer said work is advancing on recruitment for other bureaus. For the Fire Department Bureau, the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board authorized the recruitment of 160 firefighters and allocated a budget of $3 million for these purposes.
A total of 317 applications have been registered, which are under evaluation to formulate the Eligible Registry. The Emergency Medical Corps Bureau is in the process of recruiting 22 dispatchers, 137 paramedical emergency medical technicians and 21 basic emergency medical technicians. As for the Forensic Sciences Bureau, during the past fiscal year, the DPS processed the swearing-in of 59 new permanent employees so that the bureau’s expert and administrative functions could be streamlined. For the Special Investigations Bureau, in June a call was opened for eight special investigative agent positions and three inspector positions, all in San Juan, Janer said.
“Once the process is complete, the selected personnel will begin what will be the first Special Investigation Bureau Academy,” Janer said. “We are in the process of preparing and evaluating the curriculum in coordination with the Puerto Rico Police Academy. The goal is to have specialized agents who have all the necessary training to carry out the ministerial functions of the Special Investigations Bureau.”
Among other DPS achievements, Janer cited the Back Office Consolidation Plan, which details the steps to follow with the expectation of compliance, so that the central offices for integration complete the necessary processes. In July 2018, an inventory of federal funds for all the DPS bureaus was formulated, and unanswered audit reports and “high risk” designations were detailed as well. As regards technology and information technology, the DPS has completed projects to provide bureau offices with equipment and technology infrastructure that allow the interconnection of data and voice, with an investment that exceeds $4.7 million, Janer said.
“To face the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department has also begun to implement an ambitious plan to replace the back office staff’s desktop computers, to provide them with laptop computers connected to a dock station with monitors so that teleworking is facilitated during emergency situations and the services provided by the department and the support received by each of the attached bureaus are not interrupted, with an investment of $2.1 million,” the DPS chief said.
Regarding the DPS’s relations with federal agencies, the secretary reported that relations with the law enforcement agencies at the federal level were re-established, managing to integrate their resources into the commonwealth department’s work scheme. In addition, more and better tools are being promoted for the bureaus, highlighting best practices, Janer said.
Thanks to these processes, good standing was achieved with the federal government for the Special Investigations Bureau and the Forensic Sciences Bureau, guaranteeing access to federal funds for both bureaus.