Mayor de Blasio has come under heat for making a call to a top police official on behalf of a Brooklyn pastor who had been arrested after a traffic stop.
The mayor was right to make that call.
Critics of the mayor’s actions are asking the wrong question. They want to know why Mr. de Blasio seemingly interfered with the judicial process (the pastor, as it turned out, already had been released). The real question is why the pastor, who endorsed Mr. de Blasio last year, had an outstanding warrant on his record for the perfectly legal act of engaging in a political protest.
We have become too quick to lock up people like Bishop Orlando Findlayter and so many others who are either engaged in the disruptive but legal act of political protest or who are guilty of minor offenses. The mayor was absolutely right to make a call once he learned that the bishop was sitting in a cell in a Brooklyn precinct house. The bust was unnecessary; that much became clear to the precinct commander, who set Mr. Findlayter free before Mr. de Blasio made his inquiry.
Mr. de Blasio has been unnecessarily defensive in his handling of the aftermath of this nonscandal. He should have been more assertive in pointing out that the NYPD has better things to do than bust a bishop after a traffic stop. The mayor stepped in to make sure that justice was served, and it was.
Perhaps a more-seasoned chief executive would have had a high-level aide make the call to police brass rather than handle it himself. But there’s also something refreshing and even charming about the mayor picking up the phone himself.
The larger point remains: This was a proper and, to use the mayor’s word, appropriate inquiry. Critics noted that Bishop Findlayter endorsed Mr. de Blasio last summer at a time when the de Blasio campaign seemed destined for oblivion. The bishop’s support helped revive Mr. de Blasio’s campaign, and so when the bishop was in trouble, it was time for the old quid pro quo.
Yes, politics works that way. But in this case, it was justice, not politics, that carried the day. There are too many people in New York and elsewhere who have minor blemishes on their record for no good reason, especially those who have been arrested for political protests.
Mr. de Blasio made the right call this time. Let’s hope he ignores critics and makes the right call next time, too.