Kechant Sewell, 49, will become the NYPD Commissioner on January 1, 2022. She is shown on Thursday morning telling Morning Joe how she’s already lost her voice and is hoping for some ‘sleep’
New York City will welcome its first female police commissioner next year in Keechant Sewell, a previously unheard of police chief from Long Island who now finds herself in charge of the largest police force in America.
Sewell, 49, currently lives alone in Valley Stream, Long Island, in a small two-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a quiet street. She is the chief of detectives for Nassau County Police Department and is in charge of 350 officers there.
Now, she’ll be tasked with harnessing 100 times as many to clean up New York City’s worsening crime problem.
Sewell, who has never been married and does not have kids, says she is up for the challenge, having been raised by a Marine father.
She supports the Mets over the Yankees, the Knicks over the Nets, and her favorite song is Liquid Spirit by Gregory Porter.
During her career, Sewell found a mentor in a retired NYPD cop named John Wesley Pierce she called ‘Pop Pop.’
Together with her father, he taught her the meaning of ‘service and honor.’
‘He always took the time to talk to me about what it means to be a person who cared about the communities and those around them,’ she said of Pierce, who retired in 1968 and died in 2017.
Sewell’s stance on main issues isn’t yet clear – neither she nor the new Mayor has yet indicated how they feel about cash bail reforms or vaccine mandates among cops.
‘My father was a Marine, my pop pop was a New York City officer.
‘They taught me service, commitment… everything they did… even though for them this may not have been a conventional choice for me growing up,’ she told New York City’s Pix 11 on Thursday morning.
Sewell says she isn’t daunted by the prospect of taking on a force 100 times as large as the one she currently manages.
Sewell is shown in her role as Chief of Detectives for the Nassau County Police Department, a force of 350 cops
‘I absolutely am ready for this challenge. I have known policing for half of my life – the tenants of policing are the same in urban areas and suburban counties. We all want safety,’ she said.
Determined as she may be, one day of press interviews was enough to rob her of her voice on Thursday morning.
A croaky Sewell appeared on Morning Joe on MSNBC where she had to apologize because she’d lost her voice after a ‘whirlwind’ day of events with Adam on Wednesday.
Nobody has much to say, good or bad, about her. She’s kept a pretty low profile
At the end of the interview, host Joe Scarborough told her: ‘Good luck with your voice’.
She replied: ‘Thanks. Maybe next week sometime. And some sleep. Maybe I’ll get some sleep next week.’
Scarborough fired back: ‘You won’t be getting much of that for the next four years.’
Among other cops, she is relatively unheard of, having kept a low profile and stayed largely out of politics for most of her career.
‘Nobody has much to say, good or bad, about her. I think she’s kept a pretty low profile,’ Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, spokesperson for the National Police Association, told DailyMail.com.
For now at least, Sewell is being embraced by the NYPD’s largest unions.
‘We welcome Chief Sewell to the second-toughest policing job in America. The toughest, of course, is being an NYPD cop on the street,’ said Patrick Lynch, President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said in an interview with The New York Times this week.
Keechant Sewell being named Nassau County Law Enforcement employee of the year in November
The daughter of US Marine Carl Sewell, Keechant grew up in Queens and as a baby lived in a public housing development.
Career-focused, she never married or had children but swiftly rose up the ranks since joining the Fifth Precinct in 1997 as a patrol officer.
Sewell’s late father Carl was a US marine and her surrogate grandfather, her neighbor, was an NYPD cop
She later trained at the FBI’s elite National Academy in 2008, where she met – and impressed – then-San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office member Valerie Tanguay-Masner.
‘Keechant was very athletic, very energetic, very focused and driven on what it was that she wanted to do,’ she told the New York Times. ‘I believe that her integrity is absolutely above reproach. She was a shining star.’
A retired FBI special agent who counseled Sewell at the academy told the Times: ‘There was no chink in the armor.’
By September 2020, she made the record books by being named the first black woman to become Nassau County’s chief of detectives.
‘I firmly believe that there is nothing that we can’t do, she told News 12 last year. ‘There’s no ceiling we can’t shatter, there’s no door we can’t keep open.’
She’s held various policing roles through the past two-and-a-half decades, including work as a school resource officer, hostage negotiator, and detective.
Sewell most recently helped lead the police department in Nassau County, which is the safest county in America, according to a US News report
Described as ‘an unstoppable force of nature’ with ‘unimpeachable integrity’, Sewell said she believes she’ll bring fresh perspective to the force in the $200,000-a-year role.
‘I bring a fresh set of eyes,’ she said. ‘We keep using the phrase “emotional intelligence”, but sometimes the first thing people say is women are a little sensitive.
‘I think sensitivity is a strength, I think that adds to the emotional intelligence so if I can bring that to the table, I’m ready to go.’
The veteran police officer will also oversee 35,000-member force that’s grappling with bail reform fallout and anti-police sediments.
In October, Sewell was named Nassau County’s law enforcer of the year, said Nassau County Detective’s Union president John Wighaus.
‘She leads by example, and she has great appreciation for the men and women of our department,’ he told the Times.
Nassau County is the safest county in America, according to a US News report released in June. It also held the 2020 title.
In the county with a population of 1.4 million people, its property crime rate per 100,000 people was 1,067.4, compared with the national average of 1,673.9.
Its violent crime rate per 100,000 people was 143.6; the national average was 204.6.
Sewell being introduced to the public yesterday by NYC Mayor Elect Eric Adams
Moving from the safest county in America to New York City might seem like a challenge, but Adams said Sewell is up to the task.
‘She not only brings a diverse set of experience to this moment, but the emotional intelligence to lead at this challenging but hopeful time in our city,’ Adams said in a video statement. ‘I know you will be as excited as I am about welcoming her to our ranks.’
Sewell is joining the department during a time when murders, rapes, felony assaults, and grand larcenies are on the upswing.
During the week ending December 12, there were 10 murders in the city, a 43 percent year-over-year increase. Rapes increased 38 percent after 29 people were victimized during the same period.
Overall, murders are up 2.3 percent, rape is up 2.2 percent, and overall crime is up 4.8 percent in the city year-over-year.
Already this year, 454 people have been murdered in the Big Apple, and 1,413 others have been raped. Another 12,994 New Yorkers have been robbed and 19,809 have been the victims of felony assault.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who departs at the end of the month, has blamed bail reform laws enacted by the Democratic-dominated state Legislature for the spike in violent crime.
The New York Police Department has never in its 176-year history appointed to lead its force until now.
The incoming mayor said on the campaign trail that he planned to appoint a woman to the highly-coveted role, and his team searched nationwide for the best candidate.
Shortlisted candidates included police chiefs in Seattle and Philadelphia as well as a former police chief in Newark.
Adams said he saw something special in Sewell.
‘As mayor, I chose someone who I know is going to bring our city back and create an environment where we’re going to raise healthy children and families,’ Adams said during today’s press conference. ‘This amazing law enforcement professional carried with her throughout her career, a sledgehammer, and she crushed every glass ceiling that was put in her way.
‘Today she has crashed and destroyed the final one we need in New York City.’
Sewell’s historic appointment was widely celebrated Wednesday, but a criminal expert said might not be so warmly welcomed by the male-dominated police force.
Dr. Maria Haberfeld, law department chair at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Sewell could face insubordination from underlings who aren’t pleased about working for an ‘outsider’ who is a woman.
‘It’s still very much male dominated organization and there’s no doubt in my mind there will be some pullback, there will be a certain level of disbelief and maybe a certain level disrespect,’ Haberfeld told DailyMail.com.
‘This will be an internal challenge.’
Sewell will likely face unrealistic expectations from the public as well as she leads a police force ‘demoralized’ by bail reforms, she said.
‘Immediately, people will demand changes overnight which was very unrealistic,’ Haberfeld said.
‘If bail reform is not going to be changed, we’re not going to see any changes any time soon.’
However, Haberfeld said she’s not concerned with the incoming commissioner’s ability to police a major metropolitan area.
‘Police work is police work whether you’re policing a city like NYC or a small city,’ she said. ‘Crimes happen everywhere. The challenge is the magnitude. But if you are a good leader, the numbers are secondary. Content wise, a crime is a crime.’
She will also be the city’s third black police commissioner after Benjamin Ward served from 1984 to 1989 under Mayor Ed Koch, and Lee Brown served from 1990 to 1992 under Mayor David Dinkins.
She is expected to take office on January 1, taking over for the outgoing Shea, amid an increase in violent and low morale amongst police officers after years of outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s anti police reforms.
‘I’m here to meet the moment,’ Sewell told the New York Post, adding: ‘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.’
The decision to appoint Sewell to the top-cop role was a ‘gut choice’ for Adams, sources told the Post, who has vowed for months to appoint a woman to the post.
During her interview process, she had to take part in a fake news conference where other cops say she performed well and was calm.