SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Under its Customs Cross Designation Program, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) extended Thursday some of its authorities to 26 officers of the Puerto Rico Police Department's (PRPD) United Forces of Rapid Action.
The 26 United Forces of Rapid Action officers received their credentials from HSI San Juan's Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez and PRPD's Superintendent for Field Operations Colonel Orlando Melendez during a ceremony held at the Caribe Hilton Hotel.
HSI is charged with a wide array of law enforcement duties aimed at protecting the homeland. In order to be more effective in that mission, HSI works collaboratively with federal, state and local partners in a force multiplier approach to investigations.
As part of that approach, HSI is authorized under Title 19, section 1401 of the U.S. Code to cross-designate other federal, state and local law enforcement officers to investigate and enforce customs laws.
Customs cross-designation authority can also be extended to foreign law enforcement partners for cases that cross international boundaries. This authority enhances HSI's ability to work more closely with these counterparts, fostering secure relationships and cooperation between the United States and other countries.
"Collaboration is precisely what makes all our successes possible through hard work, dedication and sacrifice," said Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Programs such as this, cross designation to Title 19, not only contribute to this effort, but complement our missions and serve as a force multiplier. The maritime domain represents the most commonly exploited venue by transnational criminal organizations to introduce contraband, particularly narcotics in Puerto Rico."
In prepared remarks, Melendez stressed the significance of the new authorities to the officers.
"Today, you have been vested with a unique tool, which equates to an additional authority to counter these activities in collaboration and support of HSI and the Department of Homeland Security's partners," he said.
The 26 officers are assigned to the Puerto Rico police regions of Guanica, Cabo Rojo, Añasco, Arecibo, Vega Baja and San Juan. They join a select group of colleagues at the local level and more than 900 nationally who have been give the responsibility, privilege and authority to enforce the nation's customs laws.