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.