The state’s desire to cling to a bloated and largely ineffective police force is what has led to the security crisis that does exist in Puerto Rico, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized populations.
Activists in Puerto Rico have been challenging the facile notion that more police will make the streets safer and reduce the forms of harm that people are dealing with in their communities.
Police “protection” is literally harming and killing people.
Activists working to end the femicides and other forms of gender-based violence in Puerto Rico point out that the police are not only ineffective, but are often complicit in a myriad of ways in perpetuating practices and logics that harm women and other vulnerable populations.
Immediately following the storm, in December 2017 and January 2018, the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) saw an epidemic of “Blue Flu,” with thousands of police officers calling out sick on a daily basis in protest over terrible pay and conditions.
The Blue Flu sick out, which was effectively a , exacerbated the already dwindling numbers of police out on the streets.
Impacted like many other Puerto Ricans by the financial crisis, hundreds of police officers have been leaving the archipelago to take positions throughout the United States.
For instance, in 2018, the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) cited one officer’s estimate that the Baltimore Police Department employed approximately 200 Puerto Rican officers. and Puerto Rican media outlets ran stories that proclaimed that the archipelago was confronting a “security crisis.” The declaration was initially made by FBI special agent Douglas Leff in response to increasing frequency of violent acts, including killings, that were taking place in broad daylight in very public spaces.
This crisis in policing, in turn, contributes to violence, crime, and fear for many Puerto Ricans.
One could argue, however, that despite dwindling numbers, the police are just as present in the everyday lives of a variety of citizens and non-citizens and are present primarily as a repressive force.