Outgoing US envoy to T&T: ‘If I was police commissioner, I would fire myself’

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Days before his departure, the United States’ top diplomat, Ambassador John Estrada, has abandoned all diplomacy, giving his candid opinion on the state of Trinidad and Tobago, its crime situation and its politics.

US Ambassador John Estrada

Estrada, who was born in Trinidad and left for the US at age 14, says he is particularly disappointed with the way crime fighting was being handled.

Speaking on the Morning Edition on Tuesday, Estrada said the US government had invested in the country through funding and sending trained professionals on crime.

“My country puts a lot of resources in trying to build law enforcement capacity in this country. We bring agents down here from FBI, local police…we spent of a lot of resources here in training and to see the homicide rate continue to spiral out of control. It hurts me every time I see a young woman, a young girl, schoolgirl, one just recently; it happens so frequently. And I listen to the leadership and when I talk about leadership I talk about the people that are responsible for fighting crime; is the police. And there has to be accountability at that level,” said Estrada.

Estrada said that if he was in charge of the police, and there were no results he would fire himself.

“If I was in charge of the police, we would get results and if we were not getting results, I would be the first one to fire myself if I ran the police service,” he said.

Estrada also said there is a need for judicial reform and could not understand how someone charged for a crime and the trial stage took so long.

He said: “You need judicial reform, it is mind boggling to me that you could arrest someone for a crime and they don’t come to trial…your judicial system needs reform, the leadership from the top police they need to be held accountable.”

Estrada agreed with Police Complaints Authority director David West who recently referred to the police service as a gang. West has since apologised after calls for his resignation were prompted.

Estrada said: “In any organisation if anyone says we have 100 per cent of folks doing the right thing every day, it is not the truth. There are some in the US, we see what happens. I am not saying we have a police force where everyone is doing everything right 24/7. You have to have reality.”

Child Marriage

Despite the US having not signed the Universal Rights of the Child declaration, Estrada said that it was morally wrong for an underage child to be married.

He said the law needs to be changed to protect the rights of a child.

He drew reference to the president’s wife Reema Carmona, saying that her grandmother was a child bride and that she was unable to explore her potential.

Estrada agreed that a child married off at a young age would not discover their potential.

Estrada leaves tomorrow when his boss, President Barack Obama also leaves office. A new ambassador will be suggested by incoming president Donald Trump. (Trinidad Express)

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