Nassau County Chief of Detectives Keechant Sewell will make history as the first Black woman to be named police commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD), the country’s largest police force, the New York Times reports.
According to Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ office, a formal announcement was made on this past Wednesday in Queens, New York.
"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 said in a statement released to CNN. "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."
When news of Sewell’s selection went public, the Police Benevolent Association of New York City (PBA), the union that represents the city's officers, celebrated Sewell as the next police commissioner. The organization additionally asked that she get the department and the city “back on course.”
"We welcome Chief Sewell to the second-toughest policing job in America," Patrick Lynch, PBA President said in a statement. "The toughest, of course, is being an NYPD cop on the street." Lynch also said that New York City police officers "have passed their breaking point," saying, "we need to fix that break in order to get our police department and our city back on course."
The Legal Aid Society also welcomed Sewell’s appointment, which they "hope will bring a new approach to the helm of an agency in dire need of top-to-bottom reforms."
"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 statement read. "The Commissioner must also immediately meet with community members to build real and meaningful pathways to input and accountability," it continued. In her 23-year career in law enforcement with the Nassau Police Department, Sewell has worked in the Narcotics and Major Cases Unit as a hostage negotiator and was promoted to Chief of Detectives in September 2020.
Mayor-elect Adams was impressed with Sewell’s track record and handling of a rigorous interview process that included a mock news conference about the shooting of an unarmed Black man by a white police officer. Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, described Sewell as a “rising star” in police circles. “This is a case of someone identifying her early on in her career and moving her up,” he said. “This is someone who has experienced every part of the department from patrol to internal affairs.”
In a video interview with New York Post, Swell explained the significance of her appointment being officially announced at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City in Queens, where she lived as a child. “I grew up in Queens,” Chief Sewell said. “This is my city, and now this being my department, I feel like I’ve come full circle.”