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TRICK OR TREAT? PRPD Gets ‘Blue Flu’ On Halloween In Protest Over Pension Cuts

SAN JUAN — Some 1,900 police officers across Puerto Rico went on strike this morning to demand a better public pension plan, authorities said.

The absences are expected to continue through the weekend and prompted several mayors to declare a state of emergency.

A minority of officers are planning be sick between 4:00 a.m. today and 4:00 a.m. October 31 — Halloween day on Sunday.

At least 12 cities are now affected as police departments from Ponce, Salinas, Isabela, Mayagüez, San Sebastián, Dorado, Camuy, Cabo Rojo, Buchanan Expressway began closing down today, leaving residents of those areas totally without police service.

Puerto Rico police precincts actually started to shut down last night, as part of the strike. Protestors say the government has gone back on promises about their pensions will they claim will now be cut by more than half.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico firefighters also promised solidarity in joining the sickout this Halloween weekend.

“It’s historical,” a Puerto Rico police source told The Police Tribune. “By regulation, the PPR is prohibited from entering any kind of job action against the government.”

“But at the same time,” the source continued, “we are citizens and we have a big problem with the government.”

The Policia de Puerto Rico (PPR) is the second largest police department in the United States, with 17,000 sworn officers.

But for an island that is a high-density drug interdiction point with extreme violent crime, the officers earn far less than their stateside counterparts in both salary and benefits.

A Puerto Rico police veteran with more than 35 years on the force told The Police Tribune he earned about $50,000 a year, and that the current starting salary for new recruits is just about $34,000.

He said that when he was hired, the retirement plan in his contract said that he could retire after 30 years, after age 55, with 75 percent of his salary, but the government of Puerto Rico has changed that a couple of times since he signed on.

In an emergency meeting, originally scheduled for Thursday, Governor Pedro Pierluisi made a commitment with union leaders to bring together the country’s police officers to address the issues that led them to decree a strike for this weekend.

Pierluisi has stated that he believes the majority of officers will report to work as planned during the dates in question. The territory’s Commissioner of Police has also expressed that he believes there will be sufficient personnel on duty.

Pierluisi said the U.S. territory will be in a better position to address the officers’ demands once it emerges from a bankruptcy-like process to restructure a portion of its more than $70 billion public debt load.

Bullet hole in the glass at the main police headquarters in San Juan this morning.

Meanwhile, a person or persons unknown put a bullet hole in the glass at the Municipal Police headquarters in the Barrio Obrero area of San Juan sometime early today, PR Informa reported.

Colonel José Juan García, the capital’s security commissioner, confirmed that the gun assault occurred in the early morning hours.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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