Sixty-nine police officers from Massachusetts, some of whom are bilingual in Spanish, will be deploying in waves to Puerto Rico to help with the island's recovery efforts following the devastation from Hurricane Maria, Gov. Charlie Baker's office announced.
The official offer of help was accepted by Puerto Rico Wednesday after the state made a bid on request that came from the territory through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, the system states use to coordinate disaster response efforts.
Since the hurricane knocked out power to the island and threatened water and food supplies, Baker has indicated a willingness to help and began making preparations for Puerto Ricans who may self-evacuate to Massachusetts. The state also activated a team of six national guardsmen with communications expertise to go to Puerto Rico.
The governor, however, has insisted on working through established relief channels even as some, most notably Newton Mayor Setti Warren, have urged him to mobilize the National Guard and work around the EMAC system. Some states, including New York and New Jersey, have sent hundreds of National Guard members to Puerto Rico.
"We are proud that a team of law enforcement officers will deploy to Puerto Rico to help keep residents safe after the recent catastrophic hurricanes," Baker said in a statement. "The Commonwealth continues to offer personnel and equipment resources as needed to Puerto Rico, and is preparing to welcome disaster survivors traveling to Massachusetts."
The police officers are expected assist local law enforcement with enforcing a curfew and providing additional security support. The teams will deploy in three waves for two weeks at a time starting with 24 law enforcement officers.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also coordinating the transport of 13 State Police cruisers to Puerto Rico that will be returned after six weeks. The team includes 17 State Police officers and law enforcement from Boston, Chelsea, Easthampton, Everett, Hampden, Holyoke, Littleton, Lowell, Peabody, Provincetown and Waltham.
A spokesman for Warren's gubernatorial campaign did not immediately respond to questions about whether Newton offered to send any police as the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency put together its EMAC bid to respond to Puerto Rico's request.