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,
New York Police Department Deputy Chief Kim Royster said she received the call from de Blasio not long after someone in 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, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, 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’s office didn’t say whether de Blasio had called the NYPD on any other arrest, nor would it say whether he might again.
“The mayor reached out to Deputy Chief Royster to get clarification on word that there had been an arrest of a respected local clergyman,” mayoral spokesman Phil Walzak said.
Findlayter is a member of the 67th Precinct clergy council, a group of pastors who act as intermediaries between the police and neighborhood residents. He endorsed de Blasio, a Democrat, and helped mobilize voters for his election. He couldn’t be reached by phone at his church or at home for comment on Tuesday.
Members of the clergy council were at the precinct when Findlayter arrived there Monday night, Royster said.
Findlayter was pulled over in the East Flatbush neighborhood at about 11:30 p.m. Monday for failing to signal, she said. Officers noticed his insurance had lapsed, and he was arrested and taken into the 67th Precinct stationhouse, where it was discovered he had two open warrants from blocking pedestrian traffic during an immigration rally last October, she said.
After the mayor’s call shortly after, Royster said, she called the stationhouse about the arrest and was told by the commanding officer there that he’d already decided to issue Findlayter a desk appearance ticket and release him rather than hold him overnight until he could be seen before a judge to address the open warrants.
“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.”
She said police Commissioner Bill Bratton didn’t learn about the arrest and call until 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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 over whether they hold someone.
The commanding officer of the 67th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lehr, arrived at the precinct when he learned of Findlayter’s arrest and 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.
Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
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