Adams Announces Pick for Incoming NYPD Commissioner

NEW YORK -
New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Incoming mayor Eric Adams has announced he has chosen Keechant Sewell as NYPD commissioner on Tuesday night, the New York Post reported.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Adams praised Sewell as “the woman for the job” and an inspiration for women in public service.

Sewell, following Adams, vowed to balance fighting crime with holding police to high standards of responsibility towards the communities they operate in.

“We are in a pivotal moment in New York as our city faces the twin challenge of public safety and police accountability. They are not mutually exclusive,” she said.

Sewell, 49, currently serves as Nassau County Chief of Detectives, and would be the first woman and third African-American to become New York City’s top cop in 176 years.

Adams had vowed to hire an African-American woman for the position, and previously considered former Newark Chief Ivonne Roman, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and NYPD’s current chief of patrol Juanita Holmes for the position.

“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 told the Post. “I want to let them know that we are absolutely focused on violent crime. Violent crime is the No. 1 priority.”

Adams, himself an NYPD veteran, made combatting the surge in crime and gun violence the cornerstone of his successful mayoral campaign. Serious crime in the city is up 5% compared to 2019.

Insiders told the Post Adams was impressed by her calm and confidence during the extensive interview process, which included conducting an hours-long mock press conference about police shooting an unarmed African-American man.

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which advises departments, told the New York Times that Sewell was “viewed as a rising star in policing circles.”

Prior to the appointment by Adams, Sewell oversaw 351 uniformed officers in Nassau County and has been in the police force for 25 years. She was trained in counterterrorism and hostage negotiation for the FBI and once talked a neo-Nazi out of shooting during a seven-hour standoff. She is on the New York-New Jersey Joint-Terrorism Task Force, and has extensive experience in narcotics and has gone undercover, something she has in common with Adams.

Once she is sworn in, she will be leading 35,000 uniformed officers and about 18,000 civilian workers.

“I have been doing this for 25 years, I am ready to hit the ground running,” she said.

She said she is in favor of plainclothes units but critical of how they have been operated in the past, and in tackling smaller offenses so they don’t snowball into a broader culture of misconduct, often referred to as the “broken windows” theory of policing.

“I think you have to take a look at quality-of-life crimes because sometimes they lead to something else,” she said. “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.”

She will replace Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and is retiring after 30 years in the police force.