On Thursday, June 20th, my mother, sister and I left New York and landed in Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago around 2PM. Upon receiving my baggage, a verbal altercation began between myself, my mother and a customs officer at the airport’s exit. Such occurred due to the officer’s blatantly rude treatment. 

Suddenly, a man ran up to me and grabbed me by the shoulder/neck area, hit me and shouted at me for “inappropriately speaking to a customs officer”. Everything happened so quickly, most things are a blur. But my mother, maternal instincts fully kicked in, screamed and cried and struggled to get me away from this man. She assumed he was a robber or some sort of madman. Later on we learned that this man was a plain clothes officer. Please note, this man ran up to me from behind, so I hadn’t seen his face and he did not identify himself/have his badge visible so no one could tell he was a person of authority. There were several witnesses who all thought this officer was a crazy person randomly abusing an innocent girl.

Rewinding a bit, as the violence occurred, my sister and my mother (both involved) were inappropriately grabbed by other male officers, and I was taken away by the arms, by another plain clothes officer, who screamed in my face “what right do you have to talk to a man that way?”. I was then handed over to a female officer and I asked her if she saw what happened. I continuously screamed out, “He hit me”, “I can’t believe a man just hit me”. She sympathized and consoled me until I was able to calm down. (Later on she denied having witnessed anything) I was put to the side and couldn’t see what situation my mother and my sister were left in. But the entire airport was at a standstill and I was able to hear their screams and cries.

A higher officer (also female) ordered for the three of us to be brought into a room, where we were all told that we were to remain seated for further questioning on how this all transpired. We were detained for the following 8 hours, put under investigation from higher officials. We explained everything that occurred, that it began as such a mere misunderstanding, and we thought the worst was over.

At about 10PM, we were brought in individually for details to complete a full profile on us (addresses, physical measurements, occupations, the works). At this point we were told (separately) that we were under arrest for the assault of 3 on-duty officers. The officer who shamelessly physically abused me, was asked for a statement and was let go. No penalty for his actions. We were taken out of the airport in front of the public, in handcuffs, surrounded by guards. We were placed in a police station, where finger prints were taken and all personal items were taken.

We were then driven to the Arouca Police Station, where we were held in a holding cell. We begged them to keep us together in one cell. And for the entire rest of the night into the middle of the next morning (Friday, the 21st), we were kept behind bars, in a room full of fecal matter, urine, leftover food particles. We were talked to like animals and taunted by the prisoners in the neighboring room. We were the only women there, innocently arrested and held among other accused.

Around 10AM Friday morning, we were brought to the Arima Magistrates Courthouse where we told that the charges being brought against us are punishable with a prison sentencing of 6 months and fines for each charge totaling $13,500 (TT dollars) altogether. 

Our court date is set for July 19th and we are not allowed to leave this country until then. The prosecutor asked that we be kept in federal prison, in separate wards, until our trial date and be considered flight risks. The judge thankfully offered us bail instead, but in exchange for our passports. We are currently at a relative’s home, on $65,000 (TT dollars) bail each. We were kept in another holding cell, with other people awaiting their change to face the judge until our relatives were able to sign bail. When we were released to our relatives around 4PM, it was the first time we saw the outside world in 27 hours.

Our father and brothers are at home, worried sick. I am sure they never thought this is what they’d be hearing on our first phone call after landing. There was something about seeing my mother and sister, in handcuffs that just broke me down. Every time I close my eyes, it’s just flashing back to that moment where we were brought in to see one another, in handcuffs. I’d never even gotten a ticket before or had been disciplined by a school teacher, much less get in trouble with the law in any way. We are a college-educated, average, productive middle class family living in New York. We feel sub-human. We feel so degraded and so embarrassed. We were taken to a doctor because we felt so ill, physically and mentally. My mother suffers from high blood pressure and my sister has asthma (both were initially denied their medical treatments while we were in the holding cell).

I still think I’m dreaming. I am ashamed that something like this could occur in 2013; where a man can hit a woman and not only get away with it, but reverse the situation and charge that woman with a federal offense and align two other officers to join him in his charges. I am ashamed that one of the higher officers was a woman and as a woman let our story go through one ear and out the other, when they came to their decision to put us under arrest. As I described getting hit by the officer and as my mother described from the perspective of a mother seeing her child in harm, and as my sister, a 19 year old girl, described not understanding how any of this transpired and how scared she was, there was no sympathy. There was no console. We were given treatment no different from a rapist or a burglar, a murderer, a drug smuggler. We were merely tourists, here for the first time, for 4 days, to attend a relative’s wedding.

In 2013, we are still dealing with those who are supposed to stand by the law and protect the earth’s citizens, abusing their power and subject the innocent to the highest level of degradation and injustice. We are terrified, because we have no idea which way the law will sway. And in the meantime, we are away from our family, away from work and school. We are scraping our last dollars together to get the best lawyer and try to get by the basic cost of living, in a land we don’t belong in. This is a country where tourism is a portion of the nation’s income, yet tourists are clearly not valued, even just enough to answer a simple question. I don’t know how we will get through all of this, emotionally, financially and mentally. But I believe the world needs to know that these experiences are real and they often go unreported.

We are taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. And we are asking that you please keep us in your prayers.

28 thoughts on “When Pigs Are Given a Badge

  1. This is all too common of late with so called officials…even the Indian High Commission and the British High Commission had to officially complain about the rough manner they and their staff receive upon arrival at the Airport,and they are diplomats…I feel for you and your family but don’t give up…you would have your day in court.

  2. This is awful. Having grown up in the Caribbean I am appalled and disgusted that these people would treat other human beings this way. Best of luck to you ladies.

  3. This is still a backward, violent, country where the victimized have no redress and those who are supposed to uphold the law are themselves lawbreakers.Publicize your experience so that it could used as a tourist guide .

  4. I am so sorry that something like this had to happen to u all in a time where u are suppose to be happy, my country is very corrupt and will always b like that until they fix the problem from the head and not the tail. I will definitely pray for u all and claim VICTORY in Jesus name say it everyday and every chance u get and that is what u will get VICTORY

  5. I am not at all surprised that such a thing would happen at our airport. I love to travel, but the thought of returning to this country and facing these rude IDOTS makes me sick. I would like to know if the officers who was responsible for this are of east Indian decent. I believe that this is a very racial country. I hope you all fight this to the end and get these human garbage out of our airports. Wishing you all the best. Go brave.

  6. This is very disturbing, I am sorry this happen to you and your family,
    some custom officials can be very harsh and impolite,
    while other are quite helpful, I have experienced both. I hope that your matter is justly completed soon and that folks remain honest; as I am sure that we as citizens will not want to experience this in any country in our life time.

  7. I can’t even begin to comprehend what you and your family must be going through! You’re most definitely in my prayers. Please keep us posted. Stay strong. Sending positive vibes!! xxx

  8. This is not only alarming but it is outrageous and should be illegal. In exercising the duties and responsibilities of the law the rights of individuals should never be violated. The substandard, illegal, inhumane and atrocious actions of those officers and officials should never be left unaddressed but sadly this is a reality for Trinbagoians. There is generally a blatant disregard for the rights of individuals and citizens within this country and it only becomes an issue when someone of renown or their children or close relatives becomes the target of this nonsense that it becomes of any significance. Impunity thus is the apparent right of any officer or official who accosts someone without proper identification.

  9. I’m utterly disgraced by these actions, the piarco international airport authority should have handled this better they should be ashamed of themselves if they see this blog. I’m really sorry that you and your family have to go through this but you should visit immigration and tell them about this. Too many times officers are given a bad name because of just a couple illiterate officers the people who did this to you are no good to the national security of this country they should be fired. If this blog wasnt here it would of gone unsounded because i’ve yet to see anything about this incident on the media.

  10. Total abuse of power!!!!!!.Our country is not represented adequately by most people in authority. Like King Austin once sang “Who are to guard these guards.”

  11. What a story! So sorry to hear of your plight. May you and your family be victorious in your fight! Unbelievable!!! I will keep you in my prayer.

  12. What a horrible story. I am so sorry for all the injustice you and your family are living through. I got agitated just reading your account, so I can imagine how awful it must be to be in the middle of it. If it’s any consolation, I read your story because it was being shared on Facebook, so I hope it will reach a lot of people. The only advice I would have is to seek support from the US embassy or consulate, because there must be a way in which the US can protect its citizens and residents (not sure if you hold US citizenship). Also, I hope you can get your story to the press, because the Trinidadi government might still care about its image in the world. If everything happens for a reason, I hope some good will come out of this (in ways you cannot imagine now).

    Stay strong, Tom (from Amsterdam)

  13. This is insane. What the hell. I can’t believe what I am reading. What can we do to help? How are they allowed to keep you there. Disgusted at the law, once again.

  14. I am so hurt, ashamed and appalled of all that these women had to go through and are still going through. May the God of justice prevail on their behalf! You’ll are in my prayers….

  15. That kind of behavior by TT airport personnel is a constant,I saw that first hand once.However,no one,man or woman should not hit another person.I do sympathize with you.Sometimes the best form of attack is offense.Be it any gender do not raise your hands because the response can be correct but deadly.They have to be crazy or high on something.

  16. wow this is unacceptable!, the job of the police is not to abuse harmless individuals and bluntly lie about it, they are supposed to protect the public from killers, robbers, psycho politicians, corrupt organizations, drug trafficers, other violent police officers who should not be on the force. This is a clear example of human rights violation, corruption of the legal and political systems.
    many blessings, may all work out for you

  17. My prayers are with you, I travel to Trinidad almost every month,to do business,so I believe you,I go through some problem of my 75times and over visiting there , and all they time was there vault. Hey but who to complain. So I leave it to Jesus, nothing go unpaid. I hope every thing goes well.

  18. I am totally ashamed and sadden to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago after reading your horrendous experience you and your family have endured and are currently faced with. My prayers will be with you all that justice and monetary compensation be awarded in tripple fold for everyone unjust abuse and mental trama these uneducated idiots in authority have put you all through. Your story is highly believable in a land where ignoranace, illiteracy and power is blissfully in abundance in our protective services as I myself have had my encounters with ‘intelligent officers’. It is often thought that being in such a state is the requirements to enter these careers. I would like to know of the outcome of this case and I am extremely sorry of your tarnished experience in my lovely country.

  19. Recently several Jamaicans were treated similarly and it took me right back to this article. I remember this very sad story and that is why I beleive every word the Jamaicans said becaue much of it matches what was told here. Obviously the government of Trinidad needs to look into this abusive of power.

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