A Look at NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell’s First Year: Crime, Morale and Visibility
Just three weeks into her tenure as the first woman to lead the New York Police Department, Commissioner Keechant Sewell faced an immense tragedy in her new force – the shooting deaths of two officers in a ambush in Harlem.
His first year on the job ended in attacks on cops when a suspected Islamic extremist came at officers with a machete a few blocks from Times Square on New Year’s Eve, injuring three.
“As evidenced last night, there are significant dangers in this profession,” Sewell said in a message to City’s Finest on New Year’s Day. “Whether it’s your first day, or any other, you face challenges and malevolent forces across this city head-on, to prevent the victimization of others.
“It’s the legacy of the NYPD,” she continued, “I’m honored to serve with each of you and I’m truly grateful that our officers are recovering.”
Praised by Mayor Eric Adams for her “emotional intelligence” when hired, the shy media commissioner granted few interviews – even rushing away from a Post reporter at an event earlier this year – and rarely deviated from the script in public.
But Sewell’s impassioned speech at the Harlem hospital and his denial of press questions there late on the evening of Jan. 21, 2021 — when a domestic violence suspect shot officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora — earned him some early respect among rank-and-file.
Cops felt some optimism that the Nassau County outsider would fix many long-standing issues in the department – but low morale within the force was one of the many challenges the new commissioner has had to face since taking office.
While the Big Apple saw a drop in murders in 2022, the NYPD struggled to stem soaring crime rates — including major crimes such as robbery and assault — and grappled with a series of heinous and highly publicized subway attacks.
The NYPD declined to make the police commissioner available for an interview with The Post it could select the reporter, and did not comment.
In 2022, Adams and his Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks ordered the Sewell Police Administration to focus on the unprecedented spike in gun violence.
This led to the deployment of renowned crime-fighting teams, dubbed neighborhood safety teams, which fulfilled an Adams campaign promise, as well as a redeployment of desk cops across the city.
While police chiefs were unable to qualify the effect these teams had on violence, Sewell and his team oversaw a 17% drop in shootings and a corresponding 13% drop in murders. , last week.
That figure still remains a far cry from pre-pandemic levels in the city — and all other major crimes except homicides rose during the year. Overall index crimes – meaning those against a person or property – rose nearly 23% in the past week.
Police have another dark trend to overcome: One in 10 victims of gun violence in 2022 was a child. New York youth are increasingly falling prey to savage shootings or being targeted in an argument.
The department and the mayor’s public safety team have yet to develop a plan to combat the wave of retail thefts in the city. Adams recently held a summit with dozens of business leaders and crime fighters to brainstorm a plan.
Both Sewell and Adams pointed to declining crime trends over the past two months as signs of progress on city streets and in the subway.
Meanwhile, unlike his predecessors – who were eager to speak in front of the cameras – Sewell chose to work more behind the scenes in the department.
She took precedence over the mayor, who was the focus of most major public safety announcements, including when Adams unveiled neighborhood safety teams and his mental health plan for homelessness.
Law enforcement sources said the commissioner even walked off the grid ahead of a press conference she was due to attend this year, forcing her first deputy to step in at the last minute.
Sewell appeared in as many news events as her immediate predecessor Dermot Shea in each of their first years on the job.
But Shea – – who assumed the job in 2019 under then-mayor Bill de Blasio – also sat for 79 reporter interviews, while Sewell did just nine, according to their schedules and clippings. hurry.
Still, the new commish’s reduced public schedule earned him points with the base.
“She seems more authentic than her predecessor, and diversifies the cadres by replacing old-fashioned leaders who cannot adapt to the changing times,” said a police source.
Another police officer, with more than 20 years on the job, said the commissioner seemed to bring improvements to the department.
“It’s the job, the way the job hammers everyone,” the cops said of force morale. Talking to people, they kinda like it.
Others believe little has changed, with overtime and patronage continuing to run wild under the new administration.
“There’s not a lot of teeth in his administration,” a law enforcement source said.
Another source claimed the mayor was at fault.
“He over-promised and he can’t deliver…ask any cop.”
Some officers, who saw the former Nassau County Police Department Chief of Detectives as a baggage handler when she first stepped into the role, have since changed their tune – and praised Sewell for telling the cops that she would change the disciplinary guidelines.
‘People say it had to be changed because it was over the top,’ said a source at the NYPD’s disciplinary matrix, which has penalties for officer misconduct and was developed with help from groups defense and the public.
A month after Sewell was named head of the nation’s largest police department, Adams hired former NYPD department chief Philip Banks as deputy mayor for public safety.
Insiders believed the move meant Banks was the man behind the curtain at the NYPD.
At first, Banks often shunned the commissioner to speak with three-star chiefs and influenced a series of internal moves – including the personal firing of internal affairs chief Joseph Reznick, law enforcement sources said.
Since then, rumors have swirled around the department of an ongoing power struggle at One Police Plaza.
“The word is she fights with Banks on a lot of things,” a source said, the Brooklyn cop with more than 20 years on the job.
But Sewell appeared to push back against the male-dominated power structure – including when she gave a fiery and well-received speech to the Policewomen’s Endowment Association in November.
“Understand you will be guessed, told what you should say, told what you should write by some with half your experience,” she said.
“They don’t know any better.”
Law enforcement sources said that in recent months however, a new faction within the police leadership has emerged following the appointment of Jeff Madrey – a longtime friend of the mayor – as department head.
Soon after, the NYPD saw a major change in leadership, including some of the appointees not being the commissioner’s first choice, law enforcement sources said.
“It is commendable that [he’s] loyal to his friends,” a source said of the mayor, “but on some things he should just say, ‘Yo bro, back off and let her do her thing. Mind your own business.'”