Members of the Prince William County Police Department spent time in Puerto Rico earlier this year, assisting with disaster relief efforts following the devastating hurricanes.
The officers stayed on the island to assist for several weeks, helping to direct major intersection that are still without power, according to Officer Lauren Pacheco.
According to Officer Alex Eguino, the poorest areas of Puerto Rico still don’t have power, and even the areas where power has been restored is extremely limited.
“There was a new shipment of generators that came in [when we were down there], and people were just lining up to buy them – it almost looked like it was Black Friday,” said Eguino.
Pacheco said that the National Guard and several other groups and government agencies were also on the island to assist – a big help to Puerto Rican police officers that have been working non-stop since the hurricanes hit.
“Many of these officers haven’t had any break since the hurricane hit,” said Eguino.
In addition to power, food, water, and batteries are a huge need for Puerto Rican residents, according to Pacheco.
But in spite of their own struggles, these residents were generous to the officers during their stay.
“Even the citizens down there kind of supported us, in terms of – it was hot, and we were in the middle of the intersections for hours, and they would bring us water. Even though they didn’t have enough, they made sure we were taken care of,” said Pacheco.
Investigator Rob Drumm even recalled incidences during his time there where residents would even attempt to return lost horses to their owners.
“We would always have horses come up the intersection that were malnourished, and the citizens would stop and get out of their car, trying to round them up and get them back to the owner,” said Drumm.
For all of the officers that participated, it was a memorable and humbling experience.
“I can’t thank the citizens of Puerto Rico enough for the hospitality they showed us…they made it feel like home, a home away from home…for people who have nothing right now, they were willing to give us everything,” said Drumm.
And for some officers, it puts their work stateside into perspective.
“It was a humbling experience. I’ve never went down to a place like that, that just had a natural disaster occur…it was very rewarding, and reminds me of why I do my job,” said Pacheco.
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