Florida Highway Patrol officers return from Puerto Rico

FHP officers return from Puerto Rico

A total of fifty of them traveled to the island to help as much as they could.  After just a couple of days after getting back, Sargent David Rodriguez shared his memories.  "In my 20 years of law enforcement, I never thought that I would be on the island of Puerto Rico in my uniform, in my Florida Highway Patrol Uniform in Puerto Rico, working,” said Rodriguez.  Conditions on the island were a difficult sight when the group first landed.  Most of them were either Puerto Rican or from Puerto Rican families.  Sgt. Rodriguez’s family was from the island, and he had traveled every summer when he was a child.  "I knew what the island looked like beforehand,” he said, "It was tough to see all that.”  Sgt. Rodriguez and state troopers joined forces with local Puerto Rican law enforcement to get the island back up and running.  "We had to do traffic control, because obviously the traffic control signals were out in over 400 intersections, island-wise,” Rodriguez said.  Wearing their Florida uniforms and bright yellow traffic vests, they stood in the middle of the road with traffic paddles that signaled drivers in Spanish.  "They knew we were there to help,” Rodriguez said of the Puerto Rican community.  Everyone was hands-on while working for 28 days straight.  They only had a one-day break, where they enjoyed some time at a local beach.  "We did a lot of humanitarian deliveries up in the mountainous areas, which sustained the most damage,” Rodriguez said.  He remembered one specific delivery in vivid detail.  “It was a special needs, where people were missing limbs and stuff like that.  There was no power.  They needed generators, so we brought generators up there,” Rodriguez said.  He explained that there were several struggles along the way trying to get the help out.  "It was frustrating to be there to help, and just see that lack of communication between government and the entities on the island [that] prevented a lot of stuff from moving,” Rodriguez said.  However, that didn’t prevent the Puerto Rican people to be warm and thankful to the officers.  "They would offer food to our people out in the street or on posts.  They would bring water to us,” he smiled.  This was Sgt. Rodriguez's longest deployment in his career, and it was all worth it.  "I felt like I had to be there.  To me, it was rewarding, very humbling to do that,” he said.     According to Sgt. Rodriguez, all officers who traveled to Puerto Rico to help were actually sworn in as officers for the island, which he described was a very special and rewarding moment for all.