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

WATCH: Red Deer celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

A celebration ceremony was held at City Hall Park Thursday afternoon

Sylvan Lake presents waterfront concept

Sustainable Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan will provide 20-year vision

Red Deer-raised artist wins the chance to exhibit at San Diego Comic Con

Micaela Dawn said courage can’t exist without fear

BioBlitz set for Lacombe Lake

Well-known Alberta naturalist to take stock of Lacombe Lake’s flora, fauna and fungi

Red Deer elementary school students play Indigenous games

Annie L. Gaetz Schools holds first-ever First Nations, Métis and Inuit Field Day Thursday

Deadline for property tax payments coming for Red Deer residents

For property owners in Red Deer, the taxman cometh. The deadline for… Continue reading

Town of Ponoka, AUPE set to resume negotiations in July

Town council rejected agreement reached between administration and union

New evidence that viruses may play a role in Alzheimer’s

WASHINGTON — Viruses that sneak into the brain just might play a… Continue reading

Amber Tamblyn novel flips gender stereotypes as it examines rape culture

TORONTO — Actress and author Amber Tamblyn started writing “Any Man,” her… Continue reading

Mike Colter brings the pain as the indestructible Luke Cage

ATLANTA — “Black Panther” broke box office records, but “Luke Cage” once… Continue reading

Toronto police strike blow to gang with ties to the U.S. and Caribbean: chief

Toronto police say they’ve taken down a large portion of a street… Continue reading

Canada focusing on existing climate plan, has no timeline to increase ambition

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Canada has no immediate plans… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month