The NYPD will be led for the first time by a woman, thanks to a surprise selection by Mayor-elect Eric Adams, himself a former New York City police captain.
Adams has chosen Nassau County Chief of Detectives Keechant Sewell to head up the country’s largest police department, though the 49-year-old’s previous experience for the past 15 months has been leading just 351 uniformed officers; the NYPD has 52,000 members, 35,000 of whom are uniformed officers.
“I’m here to meet the moment,” Sewell told the New York Post ahead of her formal appointment as the city’s 45th commissioner in the department’s 176-year history.
The Post summed up Sewell’s appointment this way:
At a time when the NYPD and the city its officers are sworn to protect are at a crossroads over a sharp rise in street violence and years of anti-cop reforms, her name will join the fabled ranks of change-minded New York police commissioners that stretch from Teddy Roosevelt in the 1890s to William Bratton in the 1990s.
“I’m very humbled to even be considered for this and it’s an extraordinary opportunity. And I take it very seriously, the historic nature of this,” she told the paper.
Adams’ surprise choice of Sewell, who is from Long Island, was a “gut choice,” he said; The Post cited sources who said she was a favorite of his since he began looking for the next commissioner.
But his choice of a woman wasn’t a surprise, as The Post noted; the former NYPD captain has said for months that he would do so.
Adams’ team launched a nationwide search “interviewing dozens of female executives, including one-time Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, former Newark Chief Ivonne Roman, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and NYPD’s current chief of patrol, Juanita Holmes,” The Post reported.
“Keechant Sewell is a proven crime-fighter with the experience and emotional intelligence to deliver both the safety New Yorkers need and the justice they deserve,” Adams told The Post. “Chief Sewell will wake up every day laser-focused on keeping New Yorkers safe and improving our city, and I am thrilled to have her at the helm of the NYPD.”
A Queens native, Sewell has spent 25 years in law enforcement and will become the third black police commissioner after Benjamin Ward (1984-1989) under Mayor Ed Koch, and Lee Brown (1990-1992) under Mayor David Dinkins.
“I want to let them know that we are absolutely focused on violent crime. Violent crime is the No. 1 priority,” said Sewell, who will replace Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who was the third NYPD top cop under outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Post described Adams’ pick of Sewell as a gambit considering she will be under a microscope given the city’s heightened crime rates under de Blasio that includes a surge in gun violence and murders as well as brazen daylight criminal activity, and given her “comparatively inexperienced” resume — though the incoming mayor understands all of that.
“He’s going on his instinct as an officer for 22 years and being one of the chief critics of the NYPD,” said a source close to the mayor-elect.
The Post went on to provide more context for his decision: “Adams was keen on the ’emotional intelligence’ Sewell showed during the grueling interview process that capped off with an hours-long mock press conference about the shooting of an apparently unarmed black man by a white police officer.”
“I have been doing this for 25 years, I am ready to hit the ground running,” Sewell told The Post.
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