Simply three weeks into her tenure as the primary lady to helm the New York Metropolis Police Division, Commissioner Keechant Sewell confronted an immense tragedy in her new power — the deadly capturing of two law enforcement officials in a Harlem ambush.
Her first 12 months on the job was book-ended by assaults on cops when an alleged Islamic extremist got here at officers with a machete simply blocks from Occasions Sq. on New Yr’s Eve, leaving three injured.
“As evidenced final evening, there are important risks on this career,” Sewell mentioned in a message to the town’s Most interesting on New Yr’s Day. “Be it your first day, or every other, you face the challenges and malevolent forces throughout this metropolis head on, to forestall the victimization of others.
“That is the legacy of the NYPD,” she continued, “I’m honored to serve with every of you and am actually grateful that our officers will get better.”
Praised by Mayor Eric Adams for her “emotional intelligence” when employed, the media-shy commissioner has given few interviews — even hurrying away from a Put up reporter at an occasion earlier this 12 months — and infrequently strayed off script in public.
However Sewell’s impassioned speech at Harlem Hospital, and her turning down questions from the press there late on the night of Jan. 21, 2021 — when a home violence suspect shot Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora — gained her some early respect among the many rank-and-file.
As of this previous Sunday, murders have been down 13.1% in New York Metropolis in comparison with final yearChristopher Sadowski
Cops felt some optimism that the outsider from Nassau County would tackle quite a few long-standing points within the division — however low morale among the many power has been one amongst a number of challenges the brand new commissioner has needed to face since taking workplace.
Whereas the Large Apple has seen a dip in murders in 2022, the NYPD has struggled to stem hovering crime — together with main felonies similar to robberies and assaults — and grappled with a spate of heinous, high-profile subway assaults.
The NYPD refused to make the police commissioner obtainable for an interview with The Put up it might choose the reporter, and didn’t remark.
In 2022, Adams and his Deputy Mayor of Public Security Phil Banks directed Sewell’s police administration to concentrate on the unprecedented surge in gun violence.
This result in the rollout of rebranded anti-crime groups, dubbed Neighborhood Security Groups, which fulfilled a marketing campaign promise of Adams, in addition to a redeployment of desk cops throughout the town.
Whereas police brass have been unable to qualify the impact these groups have had on the violence, Sewell and her group oversaw a 17% drop in shootings and a corresponding 13% dip in murders, as of final week.
That determine nonetheless stays a far cry from the pre-pandemic ranges within the metropolis — and all different main felonies other than murder have been up on the 12 months. Total index crime — which means these in opposition to an individual or property — was up almost 23% as of final week.
Police have one other grim development to beat: one in 10 of gun violence victims in 2022 have been youngsters. New York Metropolis’s youth has more and more fallen prey to wild shootouts or have been focused over an argument.
The division and mayor’s public security group even have but to put out a plan to fight the wave of retail theft within the metropolis. Adams just lately held a summit with dozens of enterprise leaders and crime fighters to brainstorm a plan.
Sewell and Adams have each pointed to crime developments pointing down during the last two months as indicators of progress on metropolis streets and within the subway system.
Mayor Eric Adams has been front-in-center on the subject of public security whereas Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell has labored behind the scenesWilliam Farrington
In the meantime, in contrast to her predecessors — who have been keen to talk in entrance of the cameras — Sewell has opted to work extra behind the scenes within the division.
She has taken a again seat to the mayor, who has been front-and-center at most massive public security bulletins, most notably when Adams unveiled the Neighborhood Security Groups, and his psychological well being plan for homelessness.
Police sources mentioned the commissioner even went off the grid forward of 1 press convention she had been slated to attend this 12 months, forcing her first deputy to step in on the final minute.
Sewell has appeared at simply as many breaking information occasions as her instant predecessor Dermot Shea throughout every of their first 12 months on the job.
However Shea — — who assumed the place in 2019 beneath then-Mayor Invoice de Blasio — additionally sat for 79 interviews with reporters, whereas Sewell has solely achieved 9, based on their schedules and press clippings.
Nonetheless, the brand new commish’s scaled-back public schedule has earned her factors with the rank-and-file.
Morale has been a long-standing problem among the many ranksChristopher Sadowski
“She appears extra real than her predecessor, and diversifying the executives by changing the previous mentality chiefs that may’t adapt to the adjustments in time,” a police supply mentioned.
One other police officer, with greater than 20 years on the job, mentioned the commissioner appeared to be making enhancements within the division.
“It’s the job, the best way the job hammers everybody,” the cops mentioned of morale among the many power. Chatting with individuals, they sort of like her.”
Others imagine little has modified, with surging time beyond regulation and favoritism persevering with to go unchecked within the new administration.
“Not a lot enamel there in her administration,” a police supply mentioned.
One other supply griped the mayor is at fault.
“He promised an excessive amount of and he can’t ship… ask any cop.”
Phillip Banks at a press convention in 2014.Robert Mecea
Some officers, who noticed the previous Nassau County Police Division chief of detectives as a carpetbagger when she first stepped into the position, have since modified their tune — and praised Sewell for telling cops she would amend the disciplinary tips.
“Individuals are saying it needed to be modified as a result of it was overkill,” mentioned one supply of the NYPD’s self-discipline matrix, which lays out penalties for misconduct by officers and was developed with the assistance of advocacy teams and the general public.
A month after Sewell was appointed as head of the nation’s largest police division, Adams tapped scandal-scarred former NYPD Chief of Division Philip Banks to the position of Deputy Mayor of Public Security.
Insiders opined the transfer meant Banks was the person backstage on the NYPD.
At the beginning, Banks typically side-stepped the commissioner to talk with three-star chiefs and influenced a sequence of inner strikes — together with personally firing the pinnacle of Inside Affairs Joseph Reznick, police sources mentioned.
Since then, rumors have circulated within the division of ongoing energy wrestle at One Police Plaza.
“The phrase is she fights with Banks on a variety of issues,” one supply, the Brooklyn cop with greater than 20 years on the job, mentioned.
However Sewell appeared to be pushing again in opposition to the male-dominated energy construction — together with when she delivered a fiery and well-received speech to the Policewomen’s Endowment Affiliation in November.
“Perceive that you may be second-guessed, informed what you must say, informed what you must write by some with half your expertise,” she mentioned.
“They don’t know any higher.”
Police sources mentioned that in latest months nonetheless, a brand new faction in police management has emerged following the appointment of Jeff Madrey — a longtime pal of the mayor’s — as chief of division.
Chief Jeff Maddrey was named chief of division in NovemberChristopher Sadowski
Quickly after, the NYPD noticed a significant shakeup change in management, together with a few of these appointed not being the commissioner’s first choose, police sources mentioned.
“It’s commendable that [he’s] loyal to his buddies,” one supply mentioned of the mayor, “however on some issues he ought to simply be like, ‘Yo, bro, fall again and let her do her factor. Thoughts your online business.’”