New Mayor Picks Next Police Boss for New York

Keechant Sewell, first woman in the job, will face jump in crime, department issues
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2021 6:25 PM CST
New York to Have First Female Police Commissioner
Mayor-elect Eric Adams stands Wednesday with Keechant Sewell at the Queensbridge houses in Long Island City, Queens.   (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

For the first time, New York City will have a woman as police commissioner. Keechant Sewell, the current chief of detectives in Nassau County, will be in charge of the largest police department in the nation, the New York Times reports. In a statement, Mayor-elect Eric Adams called Sewell, 49, "a proven crime fighter with the experience and emotional intelligence to deliver both the safety New Yorkers need and the justice they deserve." Sewell promised, per CNN, "I will have the backs of my officers, but they must have the backs of the public."

In his mayoral campaign, Adams had stressed fighting the recent increase in violence in the city and abuse by police officers. The interview process for Sewell included a mock news conference under a scenario in which a white officer shot an unarmed Black man. The police officers union said it was looking forward to working with Sewell. Officers "have passed their breaking point," said union President Patrick Lynch, who added, "we need to fix that break in order to get our police department and our city back on course." The Legal Aid Society expressed hope that the new chief "will bring a new approach to the helm of an agency in dire need of top-to-bottom reforms."

Sewell also worked in the narcotics and major case units in Nassau County, and as a hostage negotiator. She'll take over the 35,000-officer New York department in January, become the third Black person in the job. One analyst said Sewell's "worries are going to revolve around what the city council's doing in regards to crime and quality of life issues, and the surge of gun violence." There are also demands for greater transparency involving police discipline and tactics. A Nassau County official who worked with Sewell was impressed: "She showed herself not only aware of the issues, but she knows how to fix problems, and that is a rare gift." (Read more New York City Police Department stories.)

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