: Who is Keechant Sewell? Five things to know about New York City’s first female police commissioner
New York City has a new top cop.
Keechant Sewell, a veteran law-enforcement professional, has been named as the city’s next police commissioner by incoming Mayor Eric Adams. Currently the chief of detectives for Nassau County in New York’s Long Island, Sewell, 49 years old, will become the first woman to assume the top role at the New York Police Department and the third Black commissioner.
Here are five things to know about Sewell:
She is a child of New York: Sewell grew up in Queens and her appointment was announced Wednesday at the Queensbridge Houses, a public-housing project where she spent part of her childhood. She was mentored in her youth by John Wesley Pierce, a retired NYPD detective.
She is being hailed for breaking the glass ceiling: Adams had said he wanted to name a woman as the next police commissioner — and he expressed confidence that Sewell was the one for the job. “She carried a sledge hammer and she crashed and destroyed every glass ceiling in her way,” he said Wednesday. “And today she has crashed and destroyed the final one we have in New York City. We have a strong, powerful new police commissioner.”
She is arriving at a pivotal time: New York City has seen crime increase since the start of the pandemic — serious crimes are up 5% since 2019, according to the New York Post. In addition, the city and the rest of the county is re-examining the role of the police, with some calling for a defunding of traditional law-enforcement departments. At the announcement of her appointment, Sewell acknowledged the “twin challenges of public safety and accountability” she is facing, but she added that she intended to be tough on crime. “We are going to arrest violent criminals and get them off the streets and build cases that will keep them off,” she said.
She has years of experience, but in a much smaller police department: Sewell has spent 23 years with the Nassau County police department, which has around 2,400 uniformed officers, according to the New York Times. By contrast, the NYPD has 35,000. But Adams, himself a former NYPD captain, has professed faith in her as a bold leader. “If I wanted to keep someone to do what we’ve always done, I would have picked some of the leading police heads throughout the country so they can do what they’ve always done. I needed a visionary,” he said Wednesday.
She follows in the path of some greats: Perhaps the most prominent former New York City top cop is Teddy Roosevelt, who served as president of the board of the city’s police commissioners in the 1890s — not long before he became vice president and then president of the United States. In 1984, Benjamin Ward became the city’s first Black police commissioner.