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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Public Safety Dept. to start paying old debt to civilian police employees

Public Safety Secretary Alexis Torres

By The Star Staff

This month, the Department of Public Safety (DSP by its Spanish initials) intends to start paying off a debt it has had for 18 years with some 402 civilian employees of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau.

This is possible because the Financial Oversight and Management Board approved an initial payment of $567,898, corresponding to a $100 salary raise granted to public employees in 2004. As a result, the DSP hopes to start paying off debt during the Jan. 30, 2023 pay cycle.

“With this payment, part of a million-dollar debt, we begin to do justice to these civil employees whose claim has not been addressed in 18 years,” DSP Secretary Alexis Torres said. “This government will pay the increase of $100 retroactively from July 1, 2022 onward.”

Organized Civil Employees (ECO) President Jorge Méndez Cotto said meanwhile that “this achievement is the product of efforts between the ECO and the DSP.”

“Although the payment is a step forward in the negotiations with the Board, there is still a long way to go to achieve the total debt payment,” he said. “However, we recognize that teamwork is paying off in favor of the employees.”

Torres emphasized that the DSP continues in talks with the oversight board to obtain the total payment of the debt with these employees, which amounts to about $20 million and covers the period from 2004 to June 30, 2022.

“The dialogue is constant with the members of the board to end this situation that seems to us an injustice,” Torres said. “Since Governor [Pedro] Pierluisi took office, we have insisted that this money had to be allocated to meet the commitment made to these civilian employees of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau.”

Puerto Rico Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa said that “in the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, everyone has the same value and importance in providing security to our citizens.”

“Therefore, although this payment is the first step, we will not rest until we can pay off everything owed to my civilian employees since 2004,” he said.

It is not the first initiative on the part of the DSP to pay debts with its staff. At the beginning of the current fiscal year, the entity paid $16.5 million owed in overtime pay to 10,000 Police Bureau agents. The July outlay joined the $66 million paid in overtime in fiscal year 2021-2022.

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