Mayor-elect Eric Adams has announced that he had chosen Keechant Sewell for Police Commissioner of the NYPD on Wednesday, with the two appearing together at a news conference in Queens. Nassau County Chief of Detectives Sewell will make history as the first female to hold the position once she starts in the new year.
Adams, himself a former New York police captain, introduced Sewell on Wednesday as his barrier-breaking choice for one of the most high-profile and powerful jobs in his upcoming administration.
“She’s the woman for the job,” Adams declared as he appeared with Sewell at a news conference in her native Queens.
“She carried with her throughout her career a sledgehammer and she crushed every glass ceiling that was put in her way,” Adams said. “Today, she has crashed and destroyed the final one we need in New York City.”
Sewell and Adams will both begin their new positions on January 1. Sewell, 49, will replace Dermot Shea, who is retiring. Sewell said she will be “laser-focused on violent crime” as commissioner, especially centering on gun violence, which has been trending upward not just in the city but across the nation.
“We are in a pivotal moment in New York as our city faces the twin challenge of public safety and police accountability,” Sewell said at the news conference. “They are not mutually exclusive.”
Being only the third Black commissioner in New York City’s history, Sewell also said she plans to focus on making the NYPD more diverse.
“I bring a different perspective, committed to make sure the department looks like the city it serves, and making the decision, just as Mayor-elect Adams did, to elevate women and people of color to leadership positions,” she said.
“She’s the woman for the job,” Adams, himself a former New York police captain, declared as he appeared with Sewell at the news conference.
Sewell, who serves as the Nassau County police chief of detectives, will be the third Black person to serve as New York Police Department commissioner. The 49-year-old will replace Dermot Shea, who is retiring from the NYPD after 30 years, having spent the last two as commissioner. She’ll begin when Adams takes office on 1 January.
Adams had promised on the campaign trail that he would hire a woman as commissioner. Other potential candidates included Carmen Best, former Seattle chief; Danielle Outlaw, Philadelphia commissioner; Ivonne Roman, former Newark chief; and Juanita Holmes, NYPD chief of patrol.
Adams praised Sewell for her “emotional intelligence”, describing her as “calm, collected, confident” and someone who had risen through the ranks. Emotional intelligence was a large theme throughout the press conference. Both Adams and Sewell cited this concept being enacted through policies that go beyond punishing people for crimes and looking at the needs that cause a given crime. An example would include getting shoplifters connected to services like food banks to address the reason why they did the crime in the first place.
It has been decades since a Black person ran the NYPD, with Benjamin Ward and Lee Brown, who served in the 1980s and 1990s, preceding Sewell. She will inherit a police department in flux. The NYPD has struggled to keep crime down a few years after achieving record lows.
The rise, particularly in shootings and killings, is part of a national trend in the wake of the pandemic, but police officials have also blamed state reforms that eliminated pretrial detention for many charges. There is little evidence that the reforms have resulted in more crime.
Sewell said she will be “laser-focused on violent crime”, with a particular emphasis on gun crimes.
“We are in a pivotal moment in New York as our city faces the twin challenge of public safety and police accountability. They are not mutually exclusive,” Sewell said after Adams introduced her.
Sewell, lived her earliest years in public housing in the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where Adams introduce her at a press conference Wednesday. She later lived in Corona and Jamaica, Queens.
Sewell currently lives in Long Island’s Valley Stream, where she enjoys cooking and hosting her large family and friends. She was promoted to chief of detectives in Nassau County in September 2020 and is the first black female to reach that rank in the county. For the three years prior to her promotion, she created and ran the department’s Professional Standards Bureau, which oversaw the agency’s internal affairs.
“She’s had a meteoric rise,” Adams spokesman Evan Thies told The Post.
He noted that Sewell trained with the FBI to be the county’s chief hostage negotiator and also received counterterrorism training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
Can you hear it? That’s the sound of the glass ceiling shattering, once and for all! Sewell will be the first woman to take charge of the department in its 176 years!
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.