De Blasio Called Police Boss About Arrested Ally

NEW YORK (AP) -

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the commanding officer of the police department’s press office to ask about the arrest of a politically connected pastor who endorsed him and served as a member of his transition team, but the pastor had already been released, police and administration officials said Tuesday,

NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster said she received the call from de Blasio not long after the mayor’s press office sent an email asking whether Bishop Orlando Findlayter had been taken into custody Monday night for a traffic violation.

The call raised questions about whether it was proper for the mayor to even inquire about an arrest of a supporter such as Findlayter, who was released by the local Brooklyn precinct commander with a desk appearance ticket rather than being held overnight.

The mayor on Wednesday refused to answer questions about the call, but spokesman Phil Walzakon issued a statement Tuesday that the mayor just wanted “clarification on word that there had been an arrest of a respected local clergyman.”

Findlayter sat at the mayor’s table during a political breakfast Tuesday hours after his release. He is a member of the 67th Precinct clergy council, a group of pastors who act as intermediaries between the police and residents. He endorsed de Blasio in the Democratic primary and helped mobilize voters for his election.

Findlayter was pulled over in East Flatbush at about 11:30 p.m. Monday for failing to signal. Officers who noticed his insurance had lapsed arrested him and took him into the stationhouse, where it was discovered he had two open warrants from blocking traffic during an immigration rally last October.

After the mayor called her, Royster called the station and was told by the commanding officer that he’d already decided to issue a desk appearance ticket rather than hold him overnight until he could be seen by a judge.

“This is not unusual,” Royster said of the mayor’s call. “Very early in an administration, I’m around all the time. I’m working with the transition.”

Night court ends at 1 a.m., and people in custody often are held until they’re able to appear in court the next day, but commanding officers have discretion.

The commanding officer of the 67th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lehr, decided to issue him the ticket because he wasn’t a flight risk, he worked with the community and he was arrested for a relatively minor traffic offense, Royster said.