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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Probe sought into how Police Bureau handles gender violence cases involving its own ranks

House Women’s Affairs Committee Chairwoman Jocelyne Rodríguez Negrón

By John McPhaul

The chairwoman of the Women’s Affairs Committee in the island House of Representatives, Jocelyne Rodríguez Negrón, filed a resolution on Sunday to investigate why the complaints of cases of gender violence filed against Puerto Rico Police Bureau agents are not resolved.

“In recent days, the people of Puerto Rico have been dismayed by the vile murder of agent Brenda Pérez Bahamonde by her ex-partner, who also belongs to the police,” said Rodríguez Negrón, who represents District 19 (Mayagüez and San Germán). “This is not the first case that we have seen of an agent involved in an incident of gender-based violence, for which it is worth investigating what internal protocols the Police have to prevent tragedies like these from recurring.”

The measure -- co-authored by House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and Public Safety Committee Chairman Luis “Narmito” Ortiz Lugo -- orders the Women’s Affairs Committee to investigate the existing protocols for dealing with cases of gender-based violence and complaints filed against police officers, and the resources allocated to address this problem within the Police Bureau, the reasons why complaints are not resolved and charges are not filed against agents who engage in such behavior, possible solutions to reform the internal process in order to make it responsive and efficient, and how more resources can be allocated so that police agents receive better training and professional help.

“Undoubtedly, gender violence has to be combated in all its forms and on all fronts,” Hernández Montañez said. “The Puerto Rico Police Bureau plays a key and fundamental role in dealing with cases of gender-based violence, so it is essential that its ranks have total transparency, rigor and commitment when it comes to resolving these cases among its own members.”

A report by former federal police monitor Arnaldo Claudio revealed that of the 99 complaints filed against agents between June 10, 2017 and March 31, 2018, not a single conviction was achieved. Similarly, another report from the former federal monitor for the period from Aug. 1, 2018 to Feb. 28, 2019 indicates that of the 88 complaints of gender-based violence against police officers, charges were only filed in 13 cases and only one police officer was convicted.

Ortiz Lugo said meanwhile that “the working conditions of the police are precarious, which is why more resources are needed so that we have an optimal police force with incentives to work effectively.”

“Specifically, this research aims to look for flaws in the existing system in order to solve them and provide … the necessary resources so that agents have the professional help they need to deal with the pressure that their work implies,” the legislator said.

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