Monumento a la Policía / Police Monument, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Mon­u­men­to à la Policía / Police Mon­u­ment, San Juan, Puer­to Rico

Gov­ern­ment offi­cials paid homage to the police Thurs­day with the unveil­ing of a mon­u­ment pay­ing trib­ute to the men and women who died in the line of duty.

The mon­u­ment con­sists of a 20-foot tall gran­ite obelisk com­mem­o­rat­ing the insti­tu­tion of the police, and two walls which bear the names of almost 400 police offi­cers who gave the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice. The mon­u­ment was erect­ed on the Capi­tol Building’s south side, near the President’s Walk and the Vet­er­ans Mon­u­ment.

The island police depart­ment was cre­at­ed in Feb­ru­ary 1899 as the Insu­lar Police Force. The name remained the same until 1956 when the mod­ern Police Depart­ment was devel­oped. The cur­rent police force includes 13,000 offi­cers, almost 7,000 less than 10 years ago,” Gov. For­tuño said.

“The grat­i­tude of the entire pop­u­la­tion goes to the police offi­cers who on a dai­ly basis risk their lives for us. This mon­u­ment rec­og­nizes their sac­ri­fice and their work and press­es upon us to give them their just com­pen­sa­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal tools to con­tin­ue with their mis­sion.”

Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Thomas Rivera Schatz added that the new­ly cel­e­brat­ed mon­u­ment will be a per­ma­nent remain­der of the enor­mous sac­ri­fice made by the peo­ple who wear the police uni­form.

“The goal of this [mon­u­ment] is the recog­ni­tion of the entire force and the job they do for the pop­u­la­tion. It’s a trib­ute to them and their ded­i­ca­tion,” Rivera Schatz said.

Rivera Schatz placed the cost of the mon­u­ment at $750,000, which was paid by the Upper Cham­ber, which also paid for the two-hour cer­e­mo­ny.

House Speak­er Jen­nif­fer González also pre­sent­ed her respects to the police force by adding that democ­ra­cy and the insti­tu­tion of the police are not incom­pat­i­ble. “The peo­ple who are vest­ed in democ­ra­cy and free speech do not have the right to tram­ple over these rights by over­step­ping the police force, when they believe it is in their best inter­ests,” González said.

The mon­u­ment was con­ceived by José Taboa­da, the pres­i­dent of the Police Asso­ci­a­tion, who spoke out for the more prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits owed the force. “Police have giv­en so much to the well being of the pop­u­la­tion that it is impor­tant for us to pro­vide these heroes with the nec­es­sary com­pen­sa­tion in terms of retire­ment ben­e­fits and pay­roll upgrades,” Taboa­da said.

Both For­tuño and Rivera Schatz took the occa­sion to rat­i­fy their endorse­ment of Police Super­in­ten­dent José Figueroa San­cha, who has been under fire for the sky-rock­et­ing num­ber of homi­cides reg­is­tered in the first two months of 2011.

“These brave men and women sac­ri­fice their lives each and every day and to have this mon­u­ment is more than a trib­ute, it is a per­ma­nent reminder of their efforts,” Figueroa San­cha said.

Besides pay­ing trib­ute to the fall­en police­men, the island’s top cop sug­gest­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of revis­ing the police pay­roll scale, which has not changed since the ear­ly 1990s.

Also present at the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mo­ny were sev­er­al mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and a few sen­a­tors, includ­ing Pop­u­lar Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty law­mak­er José L. Dal­mau.

“I came here because the police is wor­thy of a trib­ute. My uncle was a police­man and he was injured in the line of duty, so I know about their sit­u­a­tion,” Dal­mau said.

The Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Whip has been crit­i­ciz­ing Figueroa San­cha for years for his alleged lack of suc­cess in con­tain­ing the crime rate on the island.