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First Woman NYPD Commissioner Quits Job She Never Really Had

Keechant Sewell was doing the job Eric Adams and his buddies wanted all along.

Mayor Eric Adams makes a public safety announcement with NYPD Commissioner Sewell and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phillip Banks at City Hall on Monday, April 3, 2023. (Caroline Willis / Mayoral Photo Office)

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell is stepping down. The former Nassau County Police Department chief of detectives, who was plucked out of relative anonymity by the Eric Adams transition team, is leaving the position after just eighteen months on the job—a short tenure for the NYPD's first woman commissioner, but not necessarily a surprising turn of events. 

Since he took office in January 2022, much of Mayor Eric Adams's leadership team has abandoned ship—his chief of staff, his communications chief, his top lawyer, the City's housing czar, the head of the Department of Social Services, the chief of the Department of Buildings, we could go on. 

But Sewell's departure is less "revolving door" than the result of a power struggle that left Sewell on the outside. Adams has always wanted to run the police department he used to work for, and would possibly have installed his good friend Philip Banks as commish, if Banks wasn't  an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a federal bribery case stemming from his time in the de Blasio administration. So Adams instead installed Banks as the "deputy mayor for public safety," where he acts a shadow commissioner and holds almost weekly public press conferences on public safety in the city, a public-facing role traditionally delegated to the actual police commissioner. 

So where did that leave Sewell? Not very involved in running the police department, it turned out. Over the weekend, the New York Post reported that Sewell had to run almost every decision she made for the department by City Hall, including promotions and appointments.

Being a figurehead was part of the deal, and Sewell, for her part, appeared well-liked by the rank-and-file, pushing back against the modicum of disciplinary recommendations coming from the City's toothless Civilian Complaint Review Board, and letting cops keep vacation days after findings of serious misconduct.

But Sewell decided there was one cop she couldn't let slide: Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, whom Sewell had pledged to discipline after he let a former NYPD officer who menaced three kids with a gun walk free. Maddrey faces minimal punishment—the loss of a few vacation days. But even this slap on the wrist, it looks like, proved too much for Adams, who is tight with Maddrey. The intensity of Adams's and others' support for Maddrey is bizarre (as we've reported), but it tells us a lot about where the actual power in the NYPD can be found. And it wasn't with Sewell. 

Sewell, who presided over a drop in violent crime and a return to "broken windows" policing, seemed well-positioned to be touted as a success story by the reactionary Adams administration—the NYPD got tough again and it "worked." Instead, she's on the way out. The New York Post is already listing possible replacements, and surprise, Banks and Maddrey are at the top of the list. 

Some links (but not to a federal bribery case involving a free trip to the Dominican Republic): 

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