Keechant Sewell will make history as first woman to serve as NYPD commissioner

Mayor-elect Eric Adams praised Sewell as a "proven crime fighter with the experience and emotional intelligence to deliver both the safety New Yorkers need and the justice they deserve."

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Keechant Sewell will become the next New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner, Mayor-elect Eric Adams announced on Tuesday — and she’ll be making history in the process.

Sewell, currently the Nassau County Chief of Detectives, will be the city’s first woman (and first Black woman) to lead the nation’s largest police force with more than 52,000 members.

Keechant Sewell
Keechant Sewell will become the first woman to serve as New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner. (Photo: Nassau County Police Department)

Adams, who will be sworn in as NYC mayor on Jan. 1, told the New York Post that selecting Sewell, 49, to be the city’s top cop was his “gut choice.” The former NYPD captain has reportedly favored Sewell as his pick for NYPD commissioner for months when the search began.

“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.”

In response to the history-making moment, Sewell told the newspaper “I’m here to meet the moment,” adding, “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.”

Sewell has worked in law enforcement for 25 years and will be only the third Black police commissioner in the city’s history. Benjamin Ward served as the first Black commissioner under former Mayor Ed Koch from 1983 to 1989, and Lee Brown led the department under New York City’s first Black mayor, David Dinkins, from 1990 to 1992.

Benjamin Ward
Benjamin Ward, the first African American New York City Police Commissioner is photographed January 18, 1985 at his office in New York City. (Photo by Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images)

Sewell will be taking over the post as New York City grapples with a rise in violent crime and murders — specifically gun-related crimes. Sewell said she plans to “hit the ground running” when she takes office the same day Adams is sworn in as mayor. The Queens native said she will make a “full assessment” of the state of affairs for the city as it relates to policing and crime and that she has “aggressive meetings scheduled both internally with the police department and the community.”

Adams, who won his election for mayor in a landslide last month, promised on the campaign trail that he would use his experience as a former cop to both address the city’s uptick in crime and police misconduct, specifically practices and behavior targeting Black and Brown communities. The mayor-elect is hoping that Sewell is the right leader to help him strike that balance.

Eric Adams Holds Event On Night Of New York Mayoral Election
New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams speaks during his election night party at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge on November 02, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

For her part, Sewell said she embraces the “broken windows” theory that visible signs of crime — like broken windows — breed an urban environment that encourages more crime and disorder.

“I think you have to take a look at quality of life crimes because sometimes they lead to something else,” said Sewell. “You have to make sure you’re using the broken windows theory the enforcement of those low-level crimes in a way that’s not discriminatory, in a way that addresses the problem and doesn’t actually over police it in some respect.”

Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the city’s largest police union, was receptive to Adams’s pick for NYPD commissioner.

“New York City police officers have passed our breaking point,” said Lynch. “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.”

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