NYPD Blue Helmets

Shortly after his election as United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon was visited by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who upbraided the U.N. chief about the “860 fire code violations” at the world body’s Midtown East headquarters, telling him “that any other building in New York would have been shut down long ago.”

Ban assured the mayor, who was accompanied by then fire commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, that the upcoming $1.9 billion renovation of the sixty year old building would bring it up to code, an April 2007 diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks reveals. 

But it was New York’s City’s police department rather than its fire department that was on Ban’s mind.

Secretary-General Ban complimented Mayor Bloomberg on the scope and size of the NYPD, making particular note that many of the officers speak languages other than English. Ban raised the idea of soliciting the NYPD to participate in UN peacekeeping mission.

It made sense from the U.N.’s point of view. There’s probably no other police force in the world as diverse as the NYPD. Twenty percent of the force are foreign born and 64 different languages are spoken among its officers, from Amharic to Yorub, according to the department’s website.

The proposal received a lukewarm response from the mayor though.

Bloomberg replied that the idea was unique and that he would need to discuss the matter with his police commissioner and other experts in his administration.

The idea doesn’t appear to have gained any traction. There were about 200 U.S. police serving with U.N peacekeeping operations in 2007, mostly in Kosovo, and there are currently some 75 U.S. police deployed with U.N. missions, the majority in Haiti.

Meanwhile, work on renovating the U.N.’s headquarters, and fixing those 860 fire code violations, is ongoing.


When he was president of the UN Security Council in February 2009 Japan’s then ambassador to the United Nations, Yukio Takasu, told reporters that he’d bought a Seiko clock for each of his 14 fellow envoys on the council so they’d arrive on time for meetings. A few weeks later, Iran’s mission would charge him with tardiness and refuse to accept a letter from a sanctions committee. Takasu, who was chair of the Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee, told his U.S. counterpart, Susan Rice, that he decided on hand delivery of the letter “as he believed that a face-to-face meeting would send a positive signal of engagement,” a recently released cable from WikiLeaks reveals.

But the delivery didn’t go as planned:

The Japanese had successfully scheduled a meeting at Deputy Perm Rep level to hand over the letter, but when the Japanese Perm Rep arrived the Iranians complained that he was “three minutes late” and said that the Iranian Deputy Perm Rep had suddenly been called away to other business. A lower-level Iranian official said that because he had no instructions to accept the letter by hand, he could not receive it.  The Japanese subsequently faxed the letter to the Iranian mission.

Takasu also tried to arrange a meeting with Syria’s envoy, Bashar Ja’afari, who “responded angrily” when told of the letter requesting information on an alleged arms shipment from Tehran to Damascus. The cable, dated March 10, 2009, goes on to say that

he would only receive the letter if sent by “official route,” as opposed to being hand delivered.  The Japanese mission later faxed the letter to the Syrian mission and sent via courier a signed copy of the original.

Ja’afari can expect more heated encounters with the council in the weeks ahead.