Talk about Melanin Power Unleashed!
Mayor-elect Eric Adams has tapped Nassau County Chief of Detectives Keechant Sewell as the first female police commissioner of the NYPD — a stunning, close-to-home pick from a field of seasoned top women cops across the country, The Post has learned.
“I’m here to meet the moment,” Sewell told The Post in an exclusive interview Tuesday, just a couple of weeks before she becomes the city’s 45th top cop.
At a time when the NYPD and the city its officers are sworn to protect are at a crossroads over a sharp rise in street violence and years of anti-cop reforms, her name will join the fabled ranks of change-minded New York police commissioners stretching from Teddy Roosevelt in the 1890s to William Bratton in the 1990s.
“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.
Sewell will be the first woman to take charge of the department in its 176 years.
The surprise choice of the 49-year-old from Long Island — who has led just 351 uniformed officers for the past 15 months — was a “gut choice” for Adams. Sources say he had favored her for months since the hunt began for the next leader of the largest police force in the country with more than 52,000 members.
Adams, a former NYPD captain, has long said he would appoint a woman to the post and his team launched a nationwide search, interviewing dozens of female executives, including one-time Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, former Newark Chief Ivonne Roman, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and NYPD’s current chief of patrol, Juanita Holmes.
“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.
Sewell, a Queens native who has 25 years on the job, will be just the third black police commissioner after Benjamin Ward, who served from 1984 to 1989 under Mayor Ed Koch, and Lee Brown, Mayor David Dinkins’ first police chief, from 1990 to 1992.
“I want to let them know that we are absolutely focused on violent crime. Violent crime is the No. 1 priority,” Sewell said.
She will replace Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who was the third white male to run the department under outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The pick is a bit of a gamble for Adams that will tie his administration’s early success in combating the recent surge in gun violence and murders to a police executive who has quickly risen in the New York law enforcement community — but is comparatively inexperienced.
Adams is aware of the risk, but picked Sewell nonetheless.
“He’s going on his instinct as an officer for 22 years and being one of the chief critics of the NYPD,” a source close to the mayor-elect told The Post.
Adams was keen on the “emotional intelligence” Sewell showed during the grueling interview process that capped off with an hours-long mock press conference about the shooting of an apparently unarmed black man by a white police officer.
Sewell projected a calm confidence and ability to connect with the community during the pretend scenario, an Adams source told The Post.
In her sit-down with The Post, Sewell said she was confident in her ability to lead a force of 35,000 uniformed officers and nearly 18,000 civilian workers after running a unit a mere fraction of that size.
“I have been doing this for 25 years, I am ready to hit the ground running,” she said.
The Nassau chief, though, was tight-lipped on her plan to address shootings that have increased two-fold since the pandemic engulfed the city.
“I want to actually take a look at what’s working in the city and what’s not working,” said Sewell, adding she wants a “full assessment of what’s happening in the city right now” to establish what works and what doesn’t to “come up with a strategy.”
“I’ve been policing for 25 years, so, I’ve actually got some sort of a grasp on what I think works and doesn’t work,” she said.
Adams secured the Democratic nomination and the eventual landslide win for New York City mayor as a pro-police leader who will bolster public safety as a practical progressive.
His campaign promises for public safety set a high bar for an incoming administration in a city that is on pace to record more than 1,500 shootings with 1,900 people injured in gun violence for the second year in a row. Murders are also expected to top 450 again — a nearly 50% jump from pre-pandemic levels.