December, 6, 2011
By: Ivan C. Ramos
Color/Historical Feature Story
On a fresh morning on Monday, November 21, 2011, a small group of students gathered at the Radio Colegial offices to explain Law 284 and why it is so important. The studio was empty when they arrived and they only had microphones, headphones, and their own voices to get their point across. Everybody in the room was nervous and anxious on how this would turn out.
The small group of students, who called themselves The Bulldogs, consisted of five students that cared about their voices being heard and making a point about Law 284, how it functions, affects society and what adjustments could be made to the future. The members of the Bulldogs team were Elvin Nieves, Manuel Rivera and Jose Segui.
Law 284 was established on August 1999 to prevent mental and physical harm from one person to another. The law states that, any person who intentionally commits a repetitive pattern to intimidate or try to harm another person, that behavior is considered a violation of Law 284.
In other words, Law 284 protects individuals that do not want another person to get physically closer or even have any type of contact with them. Police officers are doing the best job that they can to protect Puerto Rican citizens.
Also, team Bulldogs mentioned some of the downfalls of Law 284, and the most important one was that, in order for a protective order to be approved by a jury, the victim had to have concrete evidence that the harassing behavior was a second offence.
Elvin Nieves was asked “What is considered concrete evidence?” Nieves responded that “Concrete evidence means relating an actual specific account that can be brought to court and the jury can actually see and evaluate.”
The Bulldogs debated this statement on Facebook, creating a survey where they receive many angry comments by the people that responded. The question for the survey was “Do you think the Puerto Rican Ambush Law (Law 284) should require two offenses (even if it’s physical aggression) for an immediate restraining order to be issued?”
Therefore, the difference between the results of the survey where so different from each other, in the survey 75 people voted that Law 284 should not need a second offence and 24 people voted that they are in accordance with Law 284. It is clear that from 99 people that voted, 76 % of the people are unhappy with Law 284.
People reacted highly emotionally about this question and some of them started to fight among each other in the comments they were posting. One of the people that commented stood out from the rest, writing that she was a personal victim of this unfair law, saying “I was harassed for 3 weeks and I went to the authorities and they did nothing because I had no real evidence. Until my ex-consensual partner bit me, the police did not do anything.”
Consequently, that situation could have ended in tragedy because Law 284 stipulates that it has to happen more than one time, or the victim most have some concrete evidence. Segui explained why Law 284 was created this way.
Segui said that “There have been cases where women set up men because they are now in a new relationship and act out of jealousy and selfishness, creating lies to damage the reputation and the lives of the men involved”. That is way Law 284 only takes effect if a pattern is committed because people falsely accused innocent people.
The Bulldogs even searched for recent incidents that involved Law 284. They were trying to influence people to trust the police, because there is a generalization going on that police men are not doing their job. Recently, police officers are processing the people accused of harassment (with concrete evidence) until they can settle on a court date with a jury for trial.
If the person being accused breaks the protective order established in court and violates the allowed distance to the accuser, they could face a minimum of 9 to 18 months in jail, and the sentence goes higher, depending on the magnitude of the incident.
Later, The Bulldogs discussed the different types of harassment that people think are normal behavior, but in reality, if the person does not want to be in contact with that other person, it is illegal. Some of these types of harassments are sending flowers, love notes, or if the person waits in front of the other person’s job, house or place they frequently visit in order to encounter that particular person, against their wishes.
All of these acts are illegal if the person does not want to receive or know anything about the harassing invidual. When a protection order is successfully approved by a jury, all of these examples are considered violations of the law. Though, most accusers tend to do these things regardless of the consequences, and that is why most of them end up in jail.
At the end of the show, Segui was asked, “How do you feel about Law 284?” Segui’s response was that “Personally, I think that Law 284 is a cheap law stipulated by the government, because they are too dumb to implement an effective law. The government creates laws that do not work.
On the whole, the radio show was very informative and interesting. The Bulldogs had valuable information that people should pay more attention to, because nobody ever knows who the next victim is going to be. Law 284 is there to protect Puerto Rican citizens and, most of all, innocent people from harassment.
Law 284 has positive and negative perspectives, but the important thing is that the government does not take effective measures to help it citizens. For this reason, not only did the survey show how the public felt about Law 284, but also how Law 284 does not work in reality for the majority of the people.