Pierluisi: ‘I would look for the Public Safety Department to fulfill its mission’

Suggests changes amid performance and bureaucracy complaints

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

With both majority and minority legislators evaluating amendments to Act 20 of 2017, which created the Puerto Rico Public Safety Department (DSP by its Spanish initials), Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Wednesday that he is keeping an eye on every bill filed in the Legislative Assembly, as he considers the umbrella agency to be necessary.

When asked if he expects to “reformulate” the DSP, Pierluisi said he expects the agency to be directly affected by public policies that address public safety, to be responsible in coordinating among agencies that are involved in safeguarding the country, to conduct protocols and set guidelines to be followed and to have a fundamental role in coordinating networks with federal entities.

“That’s why I think that we need a Public Safety Department,” he said. “I would look for the Public Safety Department to fulfill its mission.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to a final decision on the DSP’s future, Pierluisi said it all depends on what happens in either the Senate or the House.

“Both chairmen asked me not to file a bill that aims for the Special Investigations Bureau to come back under the Department of Justice’s umbrella, while I believe it would be positive for it to maintain its criteria independence and remain as the Public Integrity Division’s investigative branch within Justice,” the governor said.

“I was told not to file that legislation because they are evaluating every issue within [the DSP], and that’s what I have done until now,” he added. “I think that there is a reason to have such a department; we had it before, and we have it now again.”

He also pointed out that secretary-designate Alexis Torres Ríos is an “excellent officer” to direct the department.

“Of course, there are complaints when it comes to the department’s performance up to now,” Pierluisi said. “There are complaints that there is so much bureaucracy and that, instead of making purchasing and contracting processes in different bureaus quicker, the processes have been protracted. We must work with that.”

Meanwhile, despite having obvious differences on Puerto Rico’s political status with Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago and House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, both of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party, the governor said they are capable of “making common cause” on issues like public safety.

When a member of the press asked if the “honeymoon phase” was over, he denied it.

“I have no doubt that bills will take place, obtaining votes [in favor] from every delegation in due time,” Pierluisi said.

The governor made his statements after an event that commemorated the loss of six police officers in the line of duty in 2020.

Among the fallen, five passed away due to COVID-19 complications, while one was shot to death on Jesús T. Piñeiro Avenue last April 30.

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