Puerto Rico police chief resigns as killings, absences spike

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s first female police chief resigned Monday amid a spike in killings while thousands of officers continue to call in sick to protest the lack of overtime pay.

The island’s governor said retired military officer Michelle Hernandez was stepping down after one year of overseeing one of the largest police departments under U.S. jurisdiction. Officials did not provide further details, and Hernandez did not immediately return a call for comment through her spokeswoman.

Puerto Rico had recorded 23 killings as of Sunday, compared with nine in the same period last year, police spokesman Carlos Rivera told The Associated Press. This year’s killings have occurred across the U.S. territory and include a triple homicide in recent days, he said. Two double homicides were reported later Monday, in the western coastal city of Mayaguez and the north coastal town of Rio Grande.

More than 2,700 officers have been absent daily on average in recent weeks, compared with the usual average of about 600 daily absences. It is unclear whether that number has changed in recent days and whether any action has been taken against officers who have called in sick. The island’s police department referred all questions to Karixia Ortiz, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Safety. She told AP that the agency is investigating the absences and declined further comment.

Carlos Morales, president of an association that represents the majority of the department’s 13,000-plus officers, said that he and many others are not upset that Hernandez resigned.

“She has not proven nor shown interest in how to work with Puerto Rico’s police officers,” he told AP.

Morales said daily absences have dropped slightly to about 2,300. He said a judge overseeing a 10-year federally mandated reform of Puerto Rico’s police department has requested information on the absences and why they are occurring. He said officers are pleased the judge has shown interest in the issue.

Officers have been demanding millions of dollars owed for working overtime after hurricanes Irma and Maria, with some working seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours a day.

A couple of weeks ago, Hernandez estimated the government owed officers an additional $35 million in overtime pay, but said the department was still tallying attendance sheets to determine the exact amount. More than $20 million has been paid so far as the island struggles to restructure a portion of its $73 billion public debt amid an 11-year recession.

Also on Monday, government officials announced that Jose Izquierdo, director of Puerto Rico’s Tourism Company, had been asked to resign. Officials did not provide further details or respond to requests for comment.

Just Posted

Man accused of manslaughter in fatal collision testifies he was cut off

A Delburne man accused of causing a fatal collision said he was… Continue reading

Class size targets hard to reach in Red Deer

Red Deer Public Schools recently updated its average class size

Lotteries look to younger customers to increase sales

Promoting online and interactive games

Red Deer man helps light up the holidays for others

Jim Elliott’s in his 15th year of mapping the city’s most magical, lit-up homes

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Barry Cooper: Separation has become a real possibility, thanks to Ottawa’s abuses

In the past couple of weeks, a retired senior oil executive, Gwyn… Continue reading

Sex assault trial for former gymnastics coach resumes in Sarnia

SARNIA, Ont. — The trial of a former high-ranking gymnastics coach accused… Continue reading

Victims of former ski coach Charest say they were ‘sacrificed’ by Alpine Canada

MONTREAL — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Alpine Canada by three victims… Continue reading

Emily Blunt on the ‘daunting’ task of playing Mary Poppins

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Emily Blunt loves a challenge, and in the… Continue reading

Tommy Chong says Canada’s weed legalization has kept ‘underground market alive’

TORONTO — Tommy Chong has a pass, man. While some Canadians who… Continue reading

Apple deepens Austin ties, expands operations east and west

AUSTIN, Texas — Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin,… Continue reading

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

Most Read