New York City mayor-elect Eric Adams has named Keechant Sewell, the chief of detectives for Nassau County, as the NYPD’s commissioner. Beginning January 1, Sewell, 49, will be the department’s first female police commissioner in its 176-year history.
While receiving the nomination, Sewell noted, “I am cognizant of the historic nature of this announcement.” “As the first woman and only the third black person to lead the NYPD in its 176-year history, I bring a unique perspective, dedicated to ensuring that the department reflects the city it serves, and making the decision, like Mayor-elect Adams, to elevate women and people of color to leadership positions,” she said.
At a news conference in Queens on Wednesday morning, Adams, a former NYPD captain who was elected mayor last month, formally introduced Sewell. He had said for a long time that the next police commissioner would be a woman, but the choice of Sewell startled many, especially given the fact that there were other candidates with more experience managing huge departments like Philadelphia and Seattle.
When Adams announced that he would appoint a woman to the position, his team conducted a nationwide search, interviewing a number of female executives, including former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, former Newark Chief Ivonne Roman, and NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes, according to the New York Post.
“This is the personification of emotional intelligence,” Adams remarked of Sewell, who will be sworn in as mayor on January 1. “Commissioner Sewell’s appointment sends a strong message to girls and young women across the city: your ambition knows no bounds.”
Sewell has worked for the Nassau County Police Department on Long Island for almost 25 years, and in September 2020, she was elevated to Chief of Detectives, making her the first Black woman in that position. She is now stepping down from her position as the chief of the nation’s largest police force, where she oversaw hundreds of detectives. She will be in charge of a force of 36,000 people starting on January 1st.
Sewell said her focus will be on weapons and how to get them out of the hands of criminals, citing concerns over a recent surge in violent crime. “We’ll apprehend violent criminals, remove them from the streets, and assist in the building of cases to keep them off the streets,” Sewell added.
“The NYPD is known for being the best of the best, and we’re about to get much better,” Sewell added. “I’ll have my officers’ backs, but they’ll need the public’s as well.”
“Plain-clothes units and anti-crime units work,” according to Sewell, especially when the proper people with the correct temperament are assigned to them.
Sewell, a Queens native with over 25 years of service in duties including as covert operations, hostage negotiations, and directing detective squads, will succeed outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s third White male Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
After Benjamin Ward, who served from 1984 to 1989, and Lee Brown, who served from 1990 to 1992, Sewell will be the third Black police commissioner.
In a statement welcoming Sewell’s appointment, the Legal Aid Society said, “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 Commissioner must also engage with community people right away to establish real and meaningful paths to feedback and accountability,” the statement continued.
Sewell isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids. She grew up in the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where she lived in public housing. She later lived in Corona and Jamaica, Queens, where she was mentored by a retired NYPD investigator named John Wesley Pierce.
According to The Washington Post, Pierce “always took the time to talk to me about what it meant to be a person of honor and a person who cared about the communities and those around them.”
Sewell presently resides in Valley Stream, Long Island. She enjoys cooking and entertaining guests.