Keechant Sewell will become the first female police commissioner of the NYPD, the largest police department in the country.
Sewell, 49, is the first woman to lead the NYPD in its 176-year history. She is the department’s third black commissioner.
In an interview Thursday on " Good Morning America," Sewell said she is ready for the job, describing it as "so significant" that New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams chose her for the role.
"The fact that he would make the decision to put a woman in this position is so significant. I don’t take it lightly," said Sewell, a 25-year law enforcement veteran. "Representation matters to little girls everywhere. It matters to people everywhere and the fact that he gave me this opportunity means the world to me."
Adams, a former police captain himself, had promised to choose a woman and had interviewed a number of executives including former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and the NYPD’s current chief of patrol, Juanita Holmes, before naming Sewell.
"She’s the woman for the job," Adams said Wednesday at a press conference.
The announcement Wednesday was done at Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City where Sewell, whose grandfather served with the NYPD and whose father served in the U.S. Marine Corps, spent her early life.
Since 2020, Sewell has been the chief of detectives at the Nassau County Police Department on Long Island, where she has been on the force for 25 years.
She will take charge of the department that has successfully driven down crime in recent years but is seeing a spike in certain violent crimes during the pandemic era. Sewell plans to seek a balance between crime-fighting and police reform.
"We have to stop the violence immediately. It’s unacceptable," she said on "GMA." "We have to make sure that we coordinate with our communities to get them involved in how we can reduce the gun violence. Tourists should feel safe coming into the city."
"We need to work out strategic initiatives to make sure we tackle this problem immediately," Sewell added. "I’m going to get into NYPD and find out what they’re doing, what works and what doesn’t and try to put in some initiatives very quickly to quell the violence."
When asked why she has chosen to devote her career to law enforcement, Sewell said she believes "policing is one of the noblest professions in the world."
"To be able to have the courage to face crises, to be able to help people when they’re in their time of need, that gets me out of bed every single day," she said. "There’s not a time that I go to work that I feel as though I’m not effective. I try to effect change in everything that I do."
In appointing Sewell to the role, Adams praised her "full breadth of experience" and said his choice should send a message to girls: "There is no ceiling to your ambition."
The Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, the municipal police union for the NYPD, has welcomed Sewell to "the second-toughest policing job in America."
"New York City police officers have passed our breaking point," said PBA President Patrick Lynch. "We need to fix that break in order to get our police department and our city back on course. We look forward to working with her to accomplish that goal."
The Legal Aid Society, the oldest and largest provider of legal aid in the U.S., said Sewell can bring a new approach to an agency that is in need of "top-to-bottom reforms."
"The next Commissioner must demonstrate an understanding that many community problems do not warrant a law enforcement response; that police misconduct must be taken seriously and addressed swiftly; and that tackling some of our city’s most pressing public safety issues, especially gun violence, requires full funding for proven, community-based approaches, including the CURE Violence model, and not a knee-jerk resort to the failed, aggressive and racist approaches of the past," the Legal Aid Society said in a statement.
The organization also called on Adams to fix the criminal justice system: "The Commissioner must also immediately meet with community members to build real and meaningful pathways to input and accountability … we look forward to turning the page with Mayor-elect Eric Adams and Keechant Sewell in hopes of making New York a more fair and just city for the clients and communities we serve."