Mayor de Blasio on Thursday defended his decision earlier this week to call a police commander and ask about the arrest of a friend and prominent pastor, saying he was simply seeking information.
NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster said earlier in the week that de Blasio called her asking about Bishop Orlando Findlayter, who was taken into custody Monday night after a traffic violation turned up past warrants for blocking traffic during an immigration rally last October.
That night, Findlayter was released by the local precinct commander with a desk appearance ticket, rather than being held overnight.
De Blasio, speaking publicly about the matter for the first time Thursday, told reporters that he reached out to Royster after receiving a report from an aide.
"It was a very unusual dynamic to have a leading member of the clergy in that situation," he said. "I wanted to know what was going on so I made an inquiry."
Some, including City Comptroller Scott Stringer, have questioned the appropriateness of the mayor intervening in a friend's arrest. Stringer described his actions as "problematic."
The former NYPD chief of department, Joseph Esposito, defended the mayor on Thursday in an interview with NBC 4 New York.
"I have no problem with what the mayor did," he said. "It is done every day at all levels of the police department."
Esposito also said the NYPD did the right thing in letting Findlayter go.
"This minister should not be in the system," he said. "If we know that he will show up for court, it's done all the time."
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.
Findlayter was pulled over in East Flatbush 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 the open warrants.
After the mayor's call, 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.
"By the time I even got an answer, the decision had been made," de Blasio said.
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.
--Jonathan Dienst contributed to this story