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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hundreds of police officers gathered Wednesday in front of Puerto Rico's seaside Capitol building to protest proposed cuts in retirement benefits and to demand higher wages and overtime pay.
The officers also protested a recent announcement by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla that public employees will have to take time off rather than be paid for accrued sick leave. Garcia has since said that if money is available, police officers are among those who would be paid.
Last month, Garcia said that benefits need to be reduced and contributions increased to ensure the island's public pension system does not collapse.
The protest was organized a day after Garcia announced a $100 monthly salary increase for police officers, as well as free tuition at the island's largest public university for the children of slain police officers. He also said overtime pay would not be taxed.
The measures are expected to go into effect in July, but police unions say they do not believe the changes will occur.
The protest comes as Garcia seeks to retain Hector Pesquera as the island's police chief.
Pesquera was assistant director of Miami's Port Authority before taking the Puerto Rico police chief job in April 2012 and has previously said he would eventually return to that post.
There has been no official announcement about Pesquera leaving his current job, but Garcia said this week he is talking to officials in Florida's Miami-Dade County about the possibility of Pesquera remaining in Puerto Rico.
Pesquera, who has not commented on the issue, currently oversees the second-largest force in the U.S. with more than 17,000 officers.