Mayor-elect Eric Adams named Keechant Sewell, the Nassau County chief of detectives, the first-ever female commissioner of the New York City Police Department, marking one of the most important hires by a candidate who made “police reform through diversity and transparency” one of the priorities of his campaign.
Adams made the move official on Wednesday during a press conference at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where Sewell lived as a child.
“Chief Sewell’s appointment today is a powerful message to girls and young women across the city: there is no ceiling to your ambition,” Adams said.
Adams had nothing but praise for his new incoming commissioner, speaking about the traits and the experience Sewell will bring to the position.
“She exudes what it means to be emotionally intelligent, calm, collected, confident,” Adams said.
As she gave her first public address, Sewell acknowledged the historical nature of her new role.
“To all the little girls within the sound of my voice, there is nothing you can’t do and no one you can’t become,” Sewell said.
Sewell said she is committed to making the NYPD look like the community it serves by elevating people of color and women to leadership roles.
“It is said that the NYPD is the best of the best. We’re about to get even better,” Sewell said.
Sewell, who would be the third-ever Black commissioner of the NYPD, has spent 23 years with the Nassau Police Department, working in narcotics and major cases and as a hostage negotiator. Having never overseen an entire force, she will be moving to the top of the largest police department in the country in a major step forward. But Adams was reportedly impressed by Sewell’s time working undercover and her “emotional intelligence” during the interview process, which included an hours-long mock press conference regarding the shooting of an unarmed Black man by a white NYPD cop.
“I want to actually take a look at what’s working in the city and what’s not working,” Sewell told the New York Post, which first broke the news of her appointment. She added that she is a proponent of “broken windows” policing “in a way that’s not discriminatory, in a way that addresses the problem and doesn’t actually over police it in some respect.” She is expected to oversee Adams’s vision of reform for the department he spent years in — including the revival of a version of the plainclothes police units that were disbanded last year and were responsible for an outsize number of police shootings.
One of the most public challenges for the NYPD over the past few months has been the fight between union leaders and the city over vaccine mandates. But Pat Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, started the relationship off with an open mind. “We welcome Chief Sewell to the second-toughest policing job in America,” he said in a statement. “The toughest, of course, is being an NYPD cop on the street.”