“She’s the woman for the job,” Adams declared as he appeared with Sewell at a news conference in her native New York city borough of Queens.
“She carried with her throughout her career a sledgehammer and she crushed every glass ceiling that was put in her way,” Adams said. “Today, she has crashed and destroyed the final one we need in New York City.”
Sewell, who serves as the Nassau County Police Chief of Detectives, will be the third Black person to serve as New York Police Department commissioner. The 49-year-old will replace Dermot Shea. She’ll begin when Adams takes office January 1.
Adams praised Sewell for her “emotional intelligence,” describing her as “calm, collected, confident” and someone who had risen through the ranks.
It has been decades since a Black person ran the NYPD, with Benjamin Ward and Lee Brown, who served in the 1980s and 1990s, preceding Sewell. She will inherit a police department in flux. The NYPD has struggled to keep crime down a few years after achieving record lows.
The rise, particularly in shootings and killings, is part of a national trend in the wake of the pandemic.
Sewell said she will be “laser-focused on violent crime,” with a particular emphasis on gun crimes.
“We are in a pivotal moment in New York as our city faces the twin challenge of public safety and police accountability. They are not mutually exclusive,” Sewell said earlier today.
Adams, the cofounder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an advocacy group that sought criminal justice reform and spoke out against police brutality, has pledged new strategies to fight crime, including the return of foot patrols.
He has pushed back against progressive calls to defund the police and has defended the controversial stop-and-frisk police strategy as a useful tool that has been abused. He has also pledged to diversify the NYPD’s ranks.
Among about 35,000 uniformed members of the department, about 45% are white, 30% are Hispanic, 15% are Black and 10% are Asian.
Sewell was named Nassau’s Chief of Detectives in September 2020 overseeing a staff of about 350 people. The NYPD has about 35,000 officers.