By John McPhaul
Both Public Safety Security Alexis Torres and Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa attended a public hearing in the island House of Representatives on the issue of official security details on Thursday, but did not provide data on their cost.
The first question was asked by Public Safety, Science and Technology Committee Chairman Luis “Narmito” Ortiz Lugo about how many agents the Security and Protection Division has been assigned, to which the police commissioner replied: “It has about 230 officers assigned to the 13 police regions.”
Are there enough officers in this division for people entitled to security details?
“Yes, we have the resources for it. We have 61 agents assigned to the Security Detail Division to the different officials who are entitled to it by law,” López Figueroa replied.
Who pays for the security details?
“The Puerto Rico Police,” he said.
Doesn’t the security detail law establish that eight regular hours are paid and the agency to which the official has given the service does not have to reimburse for the hours of those officials?
“There are some situations where a refund is given,” López Figueroa said.
“There are agreements that are reimbursed, but we will have to look at those hours specifically,” Torres added.
The chairman of the committee gave him five working days to submit that information.
In the presentation submitted by both the public safety secretary and the police commissioner, the officials requested an extension to deliver information.
“We take the opportunity to clarify the matter of the request for information requested by this Honorable Committee, which was received by email on Wednesday, February 23 of the current year, to be delivered in five calendar days. And for that, due to its length, we request an extension,” López Figueroa said in his presentation.”
Meanwhile, New Progressive Party (NPP) lawmakers, including the NPP Minority Leader Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez, José Aponte Hernández, Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló and José “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz, characterized the investigation by the House of Representatives into security details for public officials as a “fishing expedition.”
“There was no need to make a partisan political show about this,” Méndez Núñez said. “It is open to all to see that what has happened is that the House, acting out of political activism, tries to do everything possible to strike blows at the administration where there is nothing. Today that was demonstrated.”
“This public hearing today was nothing more than a witch hunt by the minimal majority of the Popular [Democratic] Party in the House of Representatives,” Aponte Hernández said. “Today we see how representatives of that party have tried to only focus on figures from the government administration, and the NPP, for partisan political reasons. The deponents were able to demonstrate the reduction in expenses, but the attempt to tarnish the reputations of the officials of this administration continues.”