The Commissioner of the Police Bureau, Henry Escalera, did not release a pledge on whether he would recommend Governor Wanda Vázquez to decree a state of emergency due to the increase in cases of gender violence, even though he recognized that the situation on the island is “ worrying”.
Escalera and other senior leaders of the Uniformed participated yesterday in a public hearing by the Public Safety Commission of the House of Representatives related to the disappearance of people in Puerto Rico, especially girls and women.
The most direct questions in the audience were those of the representative for the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), Jesús Manuel Ortiz. “Do you think Puerto Rico is experiencing an emergency on the issue of gender?” Asked the legislator.
“I can tell you that it is worrying. A single missing woman worries us. The Police are well committed and attend to these matters with the seriousness they deserve. The governor said that she is evaluating this and we are going to wait for the governor, ”Escalera replied.
“Would you recommend that (an emergency) be decreed?” Ortiz insisted.
“Well, if you ask me, as I said a single missing woman is worrying and all this must be evaluated in a macro. This decision is being evaluated at this time, “said the police chief.
Escalera was also unable to specify whether the declaration of a state of emergency requested by organizations in favor of women’s rights would imply more resources or funds for the Police to handle these cases.
In fact, at the hearing it emerged that the Police Disappearance of Persons Division only has 30 agents, although police officers from other units are integrated in the different cases. The active agents in the Uniformed, according to Escalera, are 11,460.
The statistics don’t add up
The figures that the Police submitted to the Chamber reflect that from 2018 to the present there are 40 missing adult women and 47 minors. In addition, there are 214 adult men and 51 minors also missing. These data, however, are not uniform when compared with the statistics of the Office of the Ombudsman for Women (OPM) and the Department of the Family when it comes to minors. In fact, in a previous legislative hearing, it emerged that there were 59 minors in the custody of the State whose whereabouts are unknown.
Another issue that Escalera defended at the hearing is the communication that he claims to have with the OPM through the Domestic Violence Division of the Police. She explained that the last time she met with the women’s attorney, Lersy Boria, was “about three weeks ago, approximately.”
In addition, he insisted that the cases of women and girls disappeared in recent months do not reflect an increase, although it is an issue that worries him. “This year there are fewer (cases) than last year, but they are accumulating,” he said.
So far this year, the Police have received reports of 743 missing persons, of which 670 have been located.
After the public hearing, THE SPOKESMAN He asked Escalera to clarify his position regarding the declaration of a state of emergency for gender violence, but the official reiterated that it is a prerogative of the governor.
“No, no, I’m not going to get into that. Here the governor is evaluating this and we are going to wait for the governor to make the decision of what we are going to do with this type of approach, ”said the official.
“But you are not going to take a position?” Insisted this newspaper.
“I am here to comply with the public policy of the government of Puerto Rico,” he replied. “I don’t want to minimize what is happening and that is not what I mean. We have fewer cases and that does not imply that the problem is not there. I will responsibly wait for the governor to evaluate the decisions, “he added.
This is the second public hearing that the House Public Safety Committee has held on this matter.