Chief welcomes watchdog as probe opened into another police shooting - Caribbean Business - September 29, 2010
Following a brief meeting with Gov. Luis Fortuño and recently appointed police watchdog Efraín Rivera Pérez on Wednesday, Police Superintendent José Figueroa Sancha said the creation of the investigative body “is the best thing that can happen to the Puerto Rico Police Department,” according to an Inter News Service report.
“I’ve always wanted the best for the Police,” said Figueroa Sancha, adding that he met Tuesday with 13 regional Police directors, who likewise saw the move as positive and who, like the 17,000 uniformed officers, will be required to submit all information requested by Rivera Pérez.
The meeting at La Fortaleza came hours after police say they fatally shot a 77-year-old man after he opened fire at them during a drug raid in Ponce, a killing that comes as Puerto Rico’s law enforcement officers are under scrutiny for allegedly using excessive force.
The former Supreme Court justice will evaluate the procedures Police use to handle cases and, he added,“whether they reflect the modern standards and parameters of the Civil Rights Commission of the federal Department of Justice.”
“This is to ensure citizens’ rights to life, and to liberty, but also provides security for police because they have established procedures [for intervening],” Rivera Pérez said.
He was appointed to the monitor post in the wake of the shooting death of karate athlete José Vega Jorge, 22, by police in Guaynabo last week. Rookie officer Abimalet Natal Rivera, 25, was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly opening fire while responding to a reported robbery at a Burger King, killing Vega. Rivera allegedly began shooting after hearing another officer’s gun go off by accident.
The Justice Department’s Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) opened another probe into the Ponce killing Wednesday. The dead man, William Malaret Pagan, shot at officers when they tried to arrest his son on drug charges, Figueroa Sancha said.
Officers identified themselves when they arrived at the house where Malaret and his son lived, the police report said. When they got no response, they forced open the door and then came under under fire from a .38-caliber handgun, the report said.
A Spanish-language daily newspaper quoted family members as disputing the police account. They said the officers did not identify themselves, which prompted Malaret to fire at them.
Figueroa Sancha said at a news conference Wednesday that he has suspended other officers involved in the Burger King case, but he defended the actions of the police involved in Wednesday’s shooting.
The governor said he and Figueroa Sancha would discuss the Burger King shooting with federal officials and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly during a trip to New York next week.
“It is our responsibility to ensure the rights of citizens at all times,” Fortuño said.
Figueroa Sancha said he supports the appointment of retired Rivera as an independent monitor to aid the federal investigation into the department.
“It is the best decision,” he said.“We should not refuse help.”
Appearing at a news conference with Fortuno, Rivera told reporters that as monitor, he will hire civil-rights lawyers and review thousands of documents outlining police protocols in the hopes of preventing another shooting.
“A weapon is the last recourse,” he said.
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