The New York City Police Department said it is working with the U.S. State Department to secure the freedom of an officer detained in India for having spare bullets in his checked luggage, which a congressman claims is retaliation for the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York.
Officer Manny Encarnacion flew to New Delhi on March 10 for a vacation with his wife. When he was arrested at the airport on a felony charge, a security officer told him, “You guys like to strip-search our diplomats,” the New York Post reported.
That would appear to be a reference to the international spat that erupted last year when federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged India's deputy consul, Devyani Khobragade, with committing visa fraud to hire a housekeeper at an illegal wage.
Indian officials expressed outrage that Khobragade was strip-searched. She was eventually expelled from the U.S. and remains under indictment.
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said India appears to be punishing Encarnacion for the Khobragade incident.
"This excessive act by the Indian government is clearly politically motivated in response to the arrest of India's then-Deputy Consul in December 2013 in New York for alleged visa fraud," King wrote in a letter to the State Department.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Friday that his office is "currently working with the State Department in an effort to resolve this situation."
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at Friday's briefing that consular officers were on the case, but she could not comment further.
A spokesperson at the Indian consulate in Manhattan did not respond to a request for comment.
Encarnacion reportedly put the bullets in his jacket pocket during a visit to the police firing range two days before his vacation, then absent-mindedly packed the jacket in his suitcase.
"From all accounts, this was the result of an innocent mistake," King said.
— Tracy Connor and Carroll Ann Mears
First published April 4 2014, 1:55 PM