|He has faced many challenges in his long career, not the least of which has been avoiding confrontations in Vieques this year. After 8 years at the helm of the Puerto Rico Police Department, Toledo leaves a legacy of reduced crime and more and better-paid police officers.
El Superintendente de la Policía, Pedro Toledo, que fue la principal figura en la lucha contra el crimen en el gobierno de Pedro Rosselló, desde 1993, comenzó su vida profesional como ingeniero mecánico de la NASA. Toledo también tiene experiencia como negociador del FBI en casos de toma de rehenes.
Between 1993 and 2000, under Police Superintendent Pedro Toledos tenure, Puerto Rico has recorded a 62.2% drop in violent crimes, police have enjoyed an 81% hike in their basic monthly pay from $775 to $1,400, and the force has grown 58% from 12,000 to 19,000.
Toledo, a former NASA engineer, FBI agent, hostage negotiator, and lawyer, has been Puerto Ricos police chief and Crime Czar since then Gov.-elect Pedro Rossello asked him to join his team in 1992. His current and past achievements have earned him the distinction of being voted as CARIBBEAN BUSINESS Public Sector Person of the Year 2000 as he readies to step down from the job he has occupied for the past eight years because of the change in administration.
This year in particular, Toledo dealt with the potentially violent issue in Vieques, where more than 100 people were engaged in civil disobedience on U.S. Navy land and had to be removed before military practices could resume.
When meeting with federal authorities, Toledo repeatedly indicated that the Puerto Rico police would not remove Vieques protesters within federal jurisdiction. Gov. Pedro Rossello backed Toledos decision and the removals were postponed.
"I believe there was a tendency by some federal agencies to pass the hot potato to the local police and we objected to that," Toledo said.
The removal was finally carried out by federal authorities, not by the Puerto Rico police. Toledo did deploy the Riot Squad to the Camp Garcia gate after there were attempts to take over the gate and prevent the transit of trucks and other vehicles in and out of the area.
"I believe the presence of the Riot Squad has been a deterrent to confrontation because anyone who tries to occupy that gate knows that the police are prepared to repel them," Toledo said.
In looking back, Toledo lists several things as being very important to him in terms of the legacy that he will leave behind once he steps down at months end. For one, he said he wanted to make the police more professional by providing them with better education and equipment.
"When we came in we worked to turn the Police Academy into a university," said Toledo. "Now, we have a Criminal Justice Campus accredited by the Higher Education Council and in December we will be visited by the Middle States Association (MSA) to accredit the institution at a federal level."
An MSA accreditation would mean that cadets could receive federal educational aid, such as Pell Grants, to study at the Police University, saving the department between $7 million to $9 million yearly, Toledo said.
Another achievement Toledo points to is the fact that when he started there were 2,500 police officers out of active duty reporting to the State Insurance Fund (SIF), representing about 21% of the total force of 11,900 at that time. He said this was owed to an abuse of the system, which he set out to eliminate, despite the long legal wrangles involved.
"Now, we have 19,000 police officers and only 250 at the SIF," Toledo said.
Taking partisan politics out of the department also was among his goals. Officers have been named to positions regardless of whether they favor commonwealth, independence or statehood, he said.
"In other words, my criteria havent been based on political affiliation but on productivity and work," Toledo said. "Thats why some have sued us and criticized us. Ive been criticized by members of my own party because Ive promoted people from other parties."
In terms of equipment, Toledo has worked to obtain computers for police stations and patrol cars, and video cameras to make police work more efficient. He also established a corps of police volunteers, which he said has been very successful and includes professionals who give their off-duty time to help stem the ever-swelling crime wave.
Still, Toledo said despite all the achievements at the Police Department, there are still worrisome trends developing that include the erosion of the basic values of society such as respect for the law and the rights of others.
"You can have all the police you want, but if those values are lost, that respect for life, if theres an increase in the deterioration of the family structure, that cant be recovered," Toledo said. "Theres got to be a change in that. What I would like is for us as a people to analyze ourselves and realize that there are problems that we have to solve."
A road less traveled
The not-so-direct route that brought Toledo to the position he will leave at years end, began in 1943 when he was born to Gladys Davila and Pedro Toledo at the Dr. Pila Hospital in Ponce. His father was off fighting in World War II and the family lived in Juana Diaz. After his father returned from the war, they moved to the islands Southern Pearl.
In Ponce, Toledo attended elementary and secondary school, graduating in 1961. He then obtained a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Mayaguez Campus in 1966, when he went to work at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for NASA as an air conditioning systems engineer for the Saturn V and Apollo missions.
His career track as an engineer, which he said he shared with most of his fellow high school graduates, veered abruptly in 1968, when he was accepted into the FBI. "I had finished the career in engineering but there are a lot of lawyers in my family, and I believed that [by joining the FBI] I could indirectly enter the field of law," Toledo said.
He was assigned as an agent to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked until November 1969, when he was transferred to Miami, Fla. In 1971, he was moved to Puerto Rico, where he immediately began legal studies at Inter American University Law School, graduating with a Juris Doctor in three years.
"I kept working at the FBI and passed the bar," said Toledo, adding that he is a member of the Puerto Rico Bar Association. "I continued working in several fields, mostly in the criminal area."
During his stint with the FBI, he worked as legal adviser and attended the bureaus technology and polygraph schools. Further, he attended the hostage negotiators school and eventually joined a specialized national team of experienced negotiators called the Critical Incident Negotiation Team.
"Thats the team that is deployed each time theres a mayor crisis in the U.S. or internationally where there are hostages," Toledo said. "That team is comprised of bilingual agents, who speak different languages and have different specialties."
Toledo was the main negotiator in 1987 when more than 1,000 Cuban inmates, detained after the 1980 Mariel boatlift from Cuba, took 100 hostages during a riot at the Atlanta federal penitentiary. That negotiation took two weeks, and nearly collapsed when U.S. supervisors withdrew Toledos team to reestablish negotiations in English with a translator.
"Six hours after they did that there was a near riot. Inmates broke the phone used for negotiations and demanded that we, the Latinos, be called back," Toledo remembered. "They had to do it. Once we were back, the inmates, in a show of good will, immediately freed some hostages."
In 1991, Toledo also participated in negotiations over nine hostages taken by 121 Cuban detainees in the Talladega, Alabama, federal prison. The Cubans, who had arrived in the U.S. during the boatlift, were trying to avoid deportation.
Because the inmates refused to negotiate, officials knew that no compromise would be reached. Toledo was then asked to buy time so that the SWAT team could practice under similar circumstances to storm the place and release the hostages.
"The inmates were in there, without food, because we withheld food until the last night. Then we asked prison officials to give them lots of food. Lots of rice, lots of meat, so that theyd gorge themselves and get tired," Toledo said. "Thats what they did and about 2 a.m. the SWAT team was able to release the hostages without problems."
Obviously, not everybody gets to be a hostage negotiator. Asked what personality traits make him effective in that job, Toledo lists patience, credibility, leadership and experience. He also says knowledge of human behavior and psychology is key.
"After that, I became supervisor of the Violent Crimes division, where I had the chance to work with the Puerto Rico Police Department," Toledo said.
In 1992, Rossello asked him to join his team as Police Superintendent and Toledo traveled to Washington, D.C. to request a dispensation from the FBI. He obtained one for two years, renewable for two additional years. "That was the maximum that they gave," he said. "In 1993, I became Superintendent and later was also appointed Public Safety Commissioner."
A year later, Toledo was forced to make what he describes as a "very difficult" decision. Because of differences with FBI officials, who believed that his first loyalty and obedience was to them, not to the Rossello administration, Toledo decided to retire after 26 years in the bureau.
"I retired to eliminate any conflict that might arise and to become independent, and continue making decisions at the Police Department as superintendent, which I was sworn to do," Toledo explained. "I did it for the benefit of the department."
As to his future, Toledo said he will likely become a consultant, locally and internationally, on security issues for corporations and individuals. For one, the kidnapping trend that is so prevalent in South America is starting to become more so here, as part of the drug trafficking problem.
"The plans are to establish an office with some associates in different areas of security, not just police," Toledo said. "In addition, Im a lawyer and an engineer, so I dont think Ill have any problems."
(CB photos by Jose L. Campo)
Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo, who has been Gov. Pedro Rossellos Crime Czar since 1993, started his professional life as a mechanical engineer for NASA.
Toledos experience includes being a hostage negotiator for the FBI.
Once he steps down, Toledo plans to continue in the field of security as a local and international consultant.
||The human side of Puerto Ricos top cop
BY IVONNE GARCIA
Many know Pedro Toledo Davila for his achievements. Few know the human side of Puerto Ricos Crime Czar.
Recruited in 1992 by then Gov.-elect Pedro Rossello to be Police Superintendent, Toledo is one of a handful of people who have been with the administration since its inception. In these seven years, Toledo has tackled many challenges, including expanding and improving the police force, and stemming a rampant crime wave. This year in particular, Toledo has been praised for diffusing the potentially violent situation in Vieques.
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS Editorial Board selected Toledo as the Year 2000 Public Sector Person of the Year. We set out to find out what makes this former FBI agent and hostage negotiator tick, and we found he is a father of six boys, aged 18 to 33, and grandfather to six, with two more on the way.
"I have not been able to enjoy my grandchildren as any other grandfather would," Toledo said in a recent interview at his spacious Police Department headquarters office in Hato Rey. "Ive had very limited time. Thats one of the negative things about this type of job."
Asked what experiences as an FBI agent helped him once he became superintendent, Toledo named the case of the kidnapped Colonna children, who were never found, and another kidnapping in Bayamon, in which the childs body was found. In both cases, Toledo lived in the house with the parents, as they awaited news of their childrens whereabouts.
"Ive seen a father totally destroyed when they found the body of his child, who was mistakenly kidnapped because they took him for someone else," Toledo recalled. "That suffering of the parents... People just read the news, but theyre not there, in the home when that happens."
He also points to the Cerro Maravilla case as one that gave him an insiders look at corrupt elements within the Police Department. In the 1980s, as a result of a Senate investigation, charges were brought against 10 police officers for the killing of two pro-independence activists at the Villalba mountaintop. The police had claimed the two young men planned to bomb two communications towers in the area and had fired in self-defense.
"I was the agent assigned to that case and helped gather the evidence that was taken to court, where the 10 police officers were convicted," Toledo said, adding that he worked with Senate investigator Hector Rivera Cruz, who later was named Justice secretary. "I was the FBIs lawyer and was assigned the task of handing over to the Senate investigator all the evidence that we had."
The FBI helped Rivera Cruz take some firearms to the U.S., under bureau custody, for some ballistic tests that helped in the convictions. "That case helped us learn what can happen in the Puerto Rico police if you dont take the necessary precautions to make sure there are no such cover ups at those levels," he said.
Toledo also was involved in the case against corrupt policeman Alejo Maldonado, who headed a team of police engaged in criminal acts. With the Maldonado case, Toledo said, he saw how an internal corrupt organization could deviate investigations and keep control of their business.
In fact, combating police corruption has been one of Toledos priorities, and although he said the situation is under control, he acknowledged that there always will be rotten apples in the barrel. In light of his experiences with corrupt cops, Toledo made it his mission to restore the peoples trust in the police.
"When I arrived, morale at the department was very low, in addition to the fact that police didnt have equipment, and other considerations," he said. "There was no trust, there was no acceptance of police by the people. We started to build that up by being honest and open."
Toledos renowned honesty and openness has been put to the test in harrowing personal situations, such as the recent arrest and arraignment of one of his sons on drug charges.
"He has had no privilege or exemption," Toledo said. "I was very clear when I said that everyone must answer to the law and hes in that process. I have seen a dramatic improvement in his attitude and this may serve as a lesson. I hope it helps him."
Visibly moved, Toledo described this incident, which he said was totally unexpected, as possibly the worst moment of his life. But he said the outpouring of support and good wishes for him and his wife, Ana Milagros Cintron Garcia, has been surprising. He keeps a stack of printed e-mails near his desk from people who have written to express their solidarity.
"I even received letters from people I never thought Id hear from," Toledo said. "I received a letter from [FBI fugitive and clandestine Machetero leader] Filiberto Ojeda on stationary of the Popular Boricua Army, expressing his solidarity as a grandfather and father, not as a political adversary."
The greatest lesson he has learned from his sons plight is that no family is immune to the plague of drugs, and he said that gave him more strength to fight against the pervasive social evil. "If that happened in my home, what can happen in others?" he said. "Nobody is exempt."
He said he also learned that parents can direct and counsel their children to do the right thing, but children choose their own paths. "The best you can do is to instill values and hope they follow them."
The third lesson he has gleaned from this difficult situation is that people have to face up to their problems. On the day of his sons arrest, Toledo was in the States and he called island newspapers to give them his reaction so that it would be included in the next days news.
"When the news was published, it included my reaction," Toledo said. "And the following day, I was here in my office at 6:30 a.m., where the press interviewed me, and I cried. Imagine."
By facing up to the problem and not hiding anything, he said people saw and understood that his family was in a difficult stretch and supported them. Toledo also is grappling with his wifes cancer treatment. "What Ive learned is that you have to face up to situationsgood or badwithout hiding anything."