New York City will get its first female police commissioner in the new year after Mayor-elect Eric Adams picked Nassau County Chief of Detectives Keechant Sewell to take over the nation’s largest police department.
“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 said in a statement released to CNN on Tuesday. “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.”
Adams, a retired NYPD captain who was elected mayor last month, formally introduced Sewell at a press conference in Queens on Wednesday morning. He praised her career with over 25 years of experience in roles including undercover assignments, overseeing gun suppression cases, hostage negotiations and commanding detective squads.
Sewell has been with Nassau police on neighboring Long Island for over 25 years and was promoted to Chief of Detectives in September 2020, becoming the first Black woman to hold that role, Adams said.
She is a leader with a “full breadth of experience,” Adams said. “She didn’t sit behind a desk. She was out there learning the job and learning how to be better for the job.”
The announcement of her impending appointment is “a powerful message to girls and young women across the city. There is no ceiling to your ambition,” he added.
Adams will be inaugurated as mayor January 1, taking over for Bill de Blasio. During the election, Adams embraced a public safety message and won the Democratic primary this summer on a promise to beef up and reform the NYPD amid concerns over a rise in violent crime.
“The foundation is safety. We can talk about all the other pieces, but we have to be safe. If we’re not safe, tourism is not going to return,” Adams told CNN’s Gloria Borger ahead of the election. “No business is going to stay if their employees can’t ride our subway systems to get to their office space.”
Police union welcomes her appointment
Following news of the pick, the Police Benevolent Association of New York City, the union representing the city’s officers, welcomed Sewell as the next police commissioner, asking her to get the department, and the city, back on course.
“We welcome Chief Sewell to the second-toughest policing job in America,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “The toughest, of course, is being an NYPD cop on the street.”
Lynch added New York City police officers “have passed their breaking point,” adding, “we need to fix that break in order to get our police department and our city back on course.”
“We look forward to working with her to accomplish that goal,” Lynch said.
In its own statement, the Legal Aid Society welcomed the appointment, which they “hope will bring a new approach to the helm of an agency in dire need of top-to-bottom reforms.”
“The next Commissioner must demonstrate an understanding that many community problems do not warrant a law enforcement response; that police misconduct must be taken seriously and addressed swiftly; and that tackling some of our city’s most pressing public safety issues, especially gun violence, requires full funding for proven, community-based approaches,” the statement said.
“The Commissioner must also immediately meet with community members to build real and meaningful pathways to input and accountability,” it added.
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