KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Camillo Gonsalves, this country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, is not “particularly optimistic” about the outcome of an expected New York Police Department (NYPD) internal review of his arrest by one its officers on March 28.
The diplomat’s doubts exist even after Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, informed him on Tuesday that she had persuaded the law enforcement agency to conduct a thorough internal review of the incident.
“She (Rice) was very clear that the Untied States takes its responsibility very seriously to protect all diplomats and to protect their dignity and that they should be free from the sort of indignities that St. Vincent and the Grenadines was subjected to. There was no water in her mouth when she said that. She was very clear about that.” Gonsalves said Wednesday night.
He was at the time briefing Vincentians in New York and responding to their questions about his arrest — and the fallout thereafter — by the NYPD officer in the lobby of the building where this country’s U.N Mission is located in Lower Manhattan, New York.
Gonsalves was handcuffed for about 20 minutes after he stepped through barricades outside the building — something he said building occupants do regularly.
The NYPD officer cited “disorderly conduct,” according to a statement Gonsalves filed with Kingstown last month.
“Rice is a black woman who grew in Washington D.C. She has Jamaican grandparents, so she is linked to the Caribbean and she would be no stranger to the occasional excesses of police power,” Gonsalves said.
He added that he was grateful for the “personal interest and her personal intervention in this matter” of the the U.S. envoy, who visited him at his Mission on Tuesday.
“But I did point out to her that while I am glad to hear that the New York Police Department is conducting a thorough internal review, I have been here long enough and watched enough news programmes to know that even when unarmed people are killed, after the thorough internal review, more often than not, the New York Police Department finds that their officer acted properly,” Gonsalves further sated.
He said that he did not have to tell the gathering, of New York residents of “the number of stories” in Brooklyn — where the meeting was held — where Vincentians and other people “have been subject to police misconduct … and after a thorough internal review, the officers have been found to be blameless.
“So, I appreciate the review. I think it is important, especially in light of the fact that the international law says they should not have arrested me. But that does not mean that I am particularly optimistic as to the outcome of that review,” Gonsalves said.
“I am still hopeful that after our own letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Ambassador Rice’s own strong interest in this matter that the police can respond formally acknowledging … that they were wrong to arrest and detain a diplomatic representative of the independent and sovereign nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
He, however, said that the NYPD might not have had enough time to respond to the letter or might be planning to do so after the review.
The government here has written New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly “telling them what happened, informing them of their obligation to respect the Vienna Convention [that governs diplomatic relations], informing them that we think their officers were not properly trained to perform the task they were ask to do and asking for a few things,” Gonsalves said.
“We are asking for an apology and we are asking for Ray Kelly’s personal intervention to ensure that his officers guarding these buildings are better trained and better sensitised,” he further stated.
“We have no problem with the NYPD as a whole,” he said, adding that the NYPD has done “an excellent job, by and large, guarding and protecting the building.
“But, what we have seen in this incident is that many, many of them are poorly trained and poorly sensitised to what is taking place,” he said.
“Training is important but I would also respectfully suggest that attitude is also important,” Gonsalves further stated.