Keechant Sewell, the first woman to serve as commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD), abruptly resigned from her position Monday, June 13th, stunning City Hall officials.
Sewell, who held the post for about 18 months, announced her decision in an email to the department. She did not provide any specific reason for her departure.
“I have made the decision to step down from my position,” she wrote. “Although my time here will come to an end, I will never step away from advocating for and supporting the NYPD. I will always be a champion for the people of New York City.”
Sewell, 51, took over America’s largest police department on Jan. 1, 2022, following her appointment by Mayor Eric Adams. News of her unexpected resignation surprised many, including Adams. Sewell maintained a low profile during her tenure, granting few sit-down interviews.
In her farewell email to the department’s approximately 55,000 members, she praised the NYPD for its dedication and resilience in the face of enormous challenges. However, there were reports of an increasingly strained relationship between Sewell and City Hall, particularly regarding her limited ability to make key decisions, including those regarding crime in New York City.
According to media reports, unlike her predecessors, Sewell had to consult with City Hall before making decisions about promotions within the department. Sewell, seen at City Hall Monday afternoon, declined to comment.
The widespread belief that Adams, a former NYPD captain, and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks, were primarily in control contributed to Sewell’s struggle. It was reported that Banks played a significant role in major staffing decisions and that Adams’ trusted aide, Timothy Pearson, also advised him on public safety issues. These restrictions reportedly frustrated the former commissioner.
Despite the circumstances, Sewell’s contributions were acknowledged by the law enforcement community. Many praised her dedication to the police force, public safety, and the rule of law. During the first year of her tenure, murders decreased by 11%, and shootings dropped by 17%.
Patrick Lynch, President of the Police Benevolent Association, said Sewell’s leadership had a significant impact, particularly because she took command during a crisis.
Sewell, a 22-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department, was credited with the reduction of shootings in New York City during her tenure, despite an overall increase in crime across the city’s five boroughs. She advocated for reforms, such as relaxing controversial bail laws and increasing police presence in the subway system, earning her colleagues’ respect. Her sudden departure leaves a significant void in NYPD’s leadership.