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Orlando Sentinel

New Police Chief Tapped To Run Tainted Department

By Iván Román | San Juan Bureau

November 28, 2001
Copyright © 2001
Orlando Sentinel . All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Gov. Sila Calderon replaced the chief of Puerto Rico's beleaguered Police Department on Tuesday just hours after the latest corruption bust landed five state and municipal officers in jail on charges of protecting cocaine shipments.

Calderon appointed Police Superintendent Pierre Vivoni to a vacancy on the Circuit Court of Appeals. The new police superintendent is Port Authority Executive Director Miguel Pereira, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

Vivoni, a civil-rights activist, had been a Superior Court judge before taking charge of the Police Department in January.

Returning to the bench was Vivoni's idea, said Calderon, who maintained that her decision had nothing to do with the high murder rate, internal wars and corruption scandals that continue to trouble the 19,000-member police force.

"I think in every situation he acted correctly, and when he had to rectify something, he did," Calderon said. "He has all my trust. If not, I wouldn't be appointing him to a position that's even more sensitive than heading the Police Department."

Vivoni admitted that poor planning during the department's recent aggressive drug busts contributed to a turf war that led to an increase in slayings. As of Tuesday, there were just four fewer killings than last year's total of 693.

Vivoni demoted top brass thought to be responsible for a weapons bust staged under false pretenses this year. And after much outrage, he rescinded the appointment of an officer to head the SWAT team who had lost a sexual-harassment suit.

"I resolved those problems. I didn't leave them there," Vivoni said.

Pereira's appointment already is causing a stir in some quarters. He is married to Marlene Hunter, special agent in charge of the FBI in the Caribbean.

Pereira said the connection should not pose a conflict of interest despite assertions by legal activists to the contrary.

"She has her chain of command, and I have mine," Pereira said.

He takes over as prosecutors pursue cases against more than four dozen officers on charges ranging from helping to transport cocaine shipments to money laundering, robbery and police brutality.

Tuesday's arrests of three state police officers, two municipal officers from the city of Bayamon and four drug dealers were the latest in a series of scandals resulting from federal and local investigations.

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