Fifteen Minnesota volunteers who speak Spanish were packed and ready to board an airplane Monday and fly to Puerto Rico to help Hurricane Maria relief organizations.
They found out Sunday that the mission was canceled.
The Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency’s (PREMA) request last week made to law enforcement agencies in the U.S. was for 1,500 bilingual officers.
The volunteers were 10 police officers from St. Paul, four troopers from the State Patrol and one officer from Carver County. On short notice, they cleared their schedules and planned to be gone for two weeks.
“Conditions and requirements in Puerto Rico have changed,” said Rick Larkin, who organized the trip and is director of St. Paul’s Department of Emergency Management. “The new request is for 150 law enforcement officers who can bring patrol vehicles and stay for a six-week rotation. And half need to be bilingual.”
“Officers are disappointed they aren’t able to help,” said Steve Linders, St. Paul police spokesman. “A lot of people in St. Paul are from Puerto Rico and have loved ones there.”
Minnesotans were deployed to help other areas of the country hit by natural disasters this summer. Soldiers from a Minnesota National Guard brigade were sent to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in September. State volunteers for the Red Cross and Salvation Army also helped in relief efforts for Harvey and Irma.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety will continue to monitor PREMA requests as they come in.