Puerto Rico gov’t rejects activation of National Guard amid police absenteeism
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico government administration’s secretary of public affairs and public policy, Ramón Rosario, rejected Wednesday that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló was considering the activation of the National Guard to substitute absent police officers.
“It’s not under consideration,” Rosario said in RadioIsla 1320 interview.
The official dismissed remarks by Public Safety Secretary Héctor Pesquera and Police Commissioner Michelle Hernández regarding the activation of the military force to provide security during the holidays.
Overtime pay owed to law enforcement officials reportedly has caused a high level of absenteeism in the past few weeks. On Christmas weekend, some 2,400 absences were reported, resulting in the closure of several police stations around the island.
The number of officers who took sick leave reportedly is about 10 times more than a typical day, but pales in comparison to the 4,000 who didn’t show up for work on Dec. 17.
Rosario said that on Dec. 30, more than $6 million will be paid for overtime work during the emergency period in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and María, when some officers say they worked 16-hour shifts.
“Only in relation to the hurricanes, $7,487,229 have already been paid in overtime, and in the last two weeks of December an additional $6.4 million will be paid. By the end of 2017, this administration will have paid more $50 million in overtime, which will be more than $15 million in addition to what was paid by the last administration in 2016,” the spokesman of the governor’s office, La Fortaleza, said in a press release.
Rosario added that, as of Dec. 15, the Rosselló administration had paid $45,569,545 in overtime to police and argued that payment delays have been a problem since past administrations, which was complicated during the past few years by the fiscal crisis.