De Blasio ally avoids jail on arrest; mayor made inquiry

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Feb.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Feb. 7, 2014. (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)

A clergyman on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's inaugural committee with outstanding warrants avoided a night in jail over an arrest that the mayor personally called an NYPD official to inquire about.

Deputy Chief Kim Royster, who took de Blasio's call about Bishop Orlando Findlayter, said Tuesday that the mayor had reached her after the local commanding officer already decided to free Findlayter, senior pastor of Brooklyn's New Hope Christian Fellowship church, on a desk appearance ticket. Otherwise he would have been kept in custody and taken to court in the morning.

Findlayter was arrested around 11:20 p.m. Monday after cops stopped a vehicle he was driving for failing to signal a left turn, said Royster, a top official in the NYPD press office. The auto insurance had lapsed, she said, and he had failed to show up in court on disorderly conduct charges from an arrest at an immigration reform protest last year.


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Royster said the mayor did not ask for any special treatment for Findlayter.

De Blasio's chief spokesman, Phil Walzak, said in a written statement: "The mayor reached out to Deputy Chief Royster to get clarification on word that there had been an arrest of a respected local clergyman." Walzak did not respond to questions such as what exactly the mayor said and why he felt the need to make the inquiry.

The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Royster said that before the mayor's call, other clergy had reached out to the precinct commander, who knows Findlayter from the community. According to Royster, Findlayter said he believed his attorney had handled the disorderly conduct case. The pastor, who didn't return calls, appeared in court Tuesday and the warrants were vacated, court spokesman David Bookstaver said.

Findlayter endorsed de Blasio for mayor last summer and served on his inaugural committee.

Regardless of de Blasio's intentions, experts said an inquiry from such a powerful figure puts not-so-subtle pressure on the police for special treatment.

"If the CEO of a business calls you up and says, 'I'm interested in what you're working on,' you're going to feel the pressure and you're going to act differently than you might normally act," said John Eterno, a Molloy College professor of criminal justice and retired NYPD captain, adding that a mayor should almost never get involved.

Edith Linn, author of "Arrest Decisions," and a retired NYPD lieutenant, said: "I know if I was working there, and I received an inquiry from somebody in a high place -- unless it's somebody who did something awful -- I would feel there was some sort of implicit request . . . to be more lenient."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Findlayter was a member of de Blasio’s transition committee.

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