New NYPD frontman makes history after strong first impression – NBC New York
New York’s new mayor said he chose Keechant Sewell as the city’s first female police commissioner, in part because of her poise in handling a stress test he threw at her during maintenance.
Hours after being sworn in on January 1, Sewell was confronted with a real one: An officer shot outside a police station as he slept in his car between shifts.
“It has been a swirling, pretty busy weekend,” Sewell, 49, told The Associated Press in one of his first interviews as chief of the country’s largest police force, a department with the United States. grappled with a recent increase in violent crime and the continuing fallout from a reliance on police misconduct.
Sewell rushed to the hospital where Officer Keith Wagenhauser was in surgery to remove bullet fragments from his head. She told reporters the officer was lucky to be alive. In the simulated scenario a few weeks earlier, he had been asked to hold a press conference on a hypothetical police shooting.
Introducing Sewell as his choice last month, Mayor Eric Adams said the long-time Long Island Police official was “calm, serene, confident” and had “the emotional intelligence to lead in these difficult times and full of hope in our city “.
“I think leadership prepares you to be able to deal with whatever comes your way,” Sewell told the AP. “I look forward to what I can learn from the NYPD and to be able to bring what I already have to the table.”
Sewell’s baptism of fire continued with a briefing at police headquarters on Monday on a gang dismantling scheduled for the next day – the first major arrest operation in his tenure – and a press conference on Tuesday with Adams and the Brooklyn District Attorney.
On Thursday, she and Adams were together again, joining Governor Kathy Hochul to discuss adding police officers to the subways. Adams, a former police captain, paid disproportionate attention to his former service during his first week on the job, accompanying Sewell to events and speaking to officers one morning on call.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams named Keechant Sewell as the next NYPD commissioner on Wednesday, making her the first black woman to head the nation’s largest police department. Reports by Melissa Russo.
Sewell spent his entire policing career in suburban Nassau County before becoming the NYPD’s first outside leader in more than two decades. She is also the third black person to head the department. Sewell said she brings “a new perspective” to the job while recognizing the “incredible sense of tradition” of the department.
Sewell said she spent the weeks leading up to her swearing-in talking with everyone from street officers to former high ranking officers. She also appointed two NYPD veterans as her main deputies: Edward Caban, the new first vice-commissioner and Kenneth Corey, the new department head.
Sitting in the NYPD’s Theodore Roosevelt Room, with a bust of the former President and Police Commissioner to his right and portraits of him lining the walls, Sewell spoke about his priorities and the challenges of policing in a city of 8.8 million inhabitants.
“First and foremost, I want the city to be a safer place,” Sewell said. “I want there to be a better quality of life. I want the police department to work with the community because they are part of the community.
Sewell started with the Nassau County Police Department as a patrol officer in 1997, then went on to become the precinct commander, chief of major affairs, senior hostage negotiator and finally chief of detectives, where she supervised a staff. of about 350 people – about 1% the size of the untrained ranks of the NYPD.
Adams pledged during her campaign to hire a female commissioner, and when hiring Sewell, she placed her at the top of a list of notable women in the police force that includes Philadelphia commissioner Danielle Outlaw and former Seattle chef Carmen Best. He said Sewell “took a blacksmith’s hammer with her throughout her career and smashed all the glass ceilings in her path.”
The NYPD will soon have its first female commissioner. Reports by Jonathan Dienst.
As Sewell was briefed on the gang’s withdrawal on Monday, a task force mounted her portrait alongside her predecessors on a wall near her office at police headquarters. A passing woman remarked that the addition was “a long time coming.”
Like the men who came before her, Sewell’s success will be measured in large part by crime statistics and his ability to curb the increase in gun violence and homicides in the era of the pandemic.
After hitting a low of 292 homicides in 2017, the city reached 468 in 2020 and more than 480 last year, the highest number since 2011.
Sewell this week endorsed Adams’ plan to re-establish an undercover crime-fighting unit that was disbanded amid protests by police misconduct in 2020 over fears it represented a disproportionate number of shootings and complaints. . Sewell said the unit will be more responsible and perform better this time around – an opinion of insurance critics with skepticism.
Mark Winston Griffith, of Communities United for Police Reform, said Sewell should abandon “the failed policing strategies of the past.” by publishing more disciplinary files.
“Fair policing and responsible policing are not mutually exclusive for public safety,” Sewell told the AP. “When you have people who have the temper, the desire, and the training to do these kinds of things, you get the results you want. But the community should be a part of it, and they should understand what our role is and what we intend to do to make them safer.