By Florence Mafomemeh
When Mayor Eric Adams was running for NYC mayor, he promised to appoint a woman to lead the New York City Police Department and he did just that. He tapped Keechant Sewell, the Nassau County chief of detectives to take over the nation’s largest police force amid a crisis of trust in American policing and a troubling rise in violence. The department is also dealing with new infections from the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Sewell becomes the first black woman and first female commissioner to lead the largest police force in the country in its 176 year-year history. In an interview with The Post just weeks before becoming the city’s top cop, Sewell said she’s here to meet the moment. “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,” she said.
The appointment was a surprise even for the 49-year-old from Long Island who’s going from leading just 351 uniformed officers for just 15 months to leading the NYPD with more than 52,000 members. Defying concerns about Sewell’s inexperience, Adam’s, aware of the risks, was keen on the role that her emotional intelligence played in his choice. “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 told The Post
“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,” Adams said.
Taking to Twitter after taking the oath of office, the new commissioner said she’s truly honored to be the 45th New York City Police Commissioner. “This oath reflects my deep commitment to our great city – and the individuals who are ranked as New York’s Finest. I’m privileged to be here and ready to work!” she said.
The Queens native and 25-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department who was promoted as the chief of detectives in September 2020, played key roles in narcotics, major cases, and hostage negotiation. She is also the first black female to reach that rank in the county.
Sewell is just the third Black NYPD commissioner in 30 years after Benjamin Ward who served from 1984 to 1989 under Mayor Ed Koch, and Lee Brown under Mayor David Dinkins from 1990 to 1992.
Dermot Shea, out-going NYPD commissioner and 30-year veteran of the force had some advice for his successor: “It’s going to be incredibly challenging, and it’s going to be so rewarding at the same time,” Shea said. “Trust your gut. Do the right thing,” he said. “Take care of our city. Take care of our police department,” he added:
Sewell inherits a struggling police department with an increase in gun and violent crimes for years. “I bring a different perspective, committed to making sure the department looks like the city it serves and making the decision, just as Mayor-elect Adams did, to elevate women and people of color to leadership positions,” she said after her appointment.
Speaking on Good Morning America on her becoming the first woman to be named NYPD police commissioner, Sewell said that to put a woman in this position is so significant. “I don’t take it lightly. Representation matters to little girls everywhere,” She said.