KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The Vincentian diplomat who was arrested in New York last month says the incident highlights a need for better training of at least some cops in that North American city.
A New York Police Department (NYDP) officer on March 28arrested Camillo Gonsalves, this country’s permanent representative to the United Nation, in the lobby of the building where his office is located.
The diplomat was arrested after he stepped between barricades to gain entry to the building – something he said he and other building occupants have been doing for years.
He spoke of the need for better training of NYDP officers stationed outside the building, which houses about 15 diplomatic missions.
He made the point on Wednesday at as he discussed the incident with Vincentians in New York – and responded to their questions — at a town hall meeting in Brooklyn.
Gonsalves noted that the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations says that diplomats are not subject to arrest or detention
He, however, said that even a superior of the cop who had arrested him did not know what a United Nations’ identification card looks like.
“When the (higher ranking) police officer came, … he was so clueless, for want of a better word, about diplomatic protocols that he didn’t even recognise the diplomatic U.N. ID.
“… Because I am the Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it says ‘Permanent Representative’. It doesn’t say ‘diplomat’. And he says, ‘Well what is this ‘Permanent Representative’ thing that we are talking about here?’ This is the level of the awareness of the gentleman who came,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, who was handcuffed during the incident, said that the cuffs were removed only after U.S. State Department officials instructed the police to do so.
The cops had earlier ignored the entreaties of other diplomatic personnel who told them that it was unlawful to arrest diplomatic personnel.
He further said that the cops didn’t know how many diplomatic missions were located in the building.
“The State Department official said, ‘How could you be guarding a diplomatic facility and you don’t know how many diplomatic facilities you are guarding?’” Gonsalves said in recounting the conversation between the U.S. State Department officials and the police.
“So, clearly, there is an issue of training of the officers — at least that particular officer that was on duty that day,” Gonsalves said, adding that cops’ attitude, in addition to their training, is important.
The diplomat, who is also a lawyer and an American citizen, said that although he was in handcuffs for about 20 minutes and was being questioned, he was not read his “Miranda Rights”.
Gonsalves said that while the NDPD has generally done “done an excellent job” of guarding and protecting the building, “… what we have seen in this incident is that many, many of them are poorly trained and poorly sensitised to what is taking place.”