Yoav Gonen and Katie Honan, The City
Commissioner Keechant Sewell will step down from her role leading the New York City Police Department, the latest high-profile resignation under Mayor Eric Adams.
Sewell, the first female police commissioner in the NYPD’s history, announced her resignation on Monday in an email circulated to members of the department. A City Hall spokesperson said Sewell would depart in late June.
Her note came just days after the New York Post reported that City Hall had ratcheted up its micromanagement of Sewell’s decisions after she sought to discipline a top NYPD Chief with close ties to Adams.
“I have made the decision to step down from my position,” Sewell wrote in the email, which was obtained by THE CITY. “While my time here will come to a close, I will never step away from my advocacy and support for the NYPD, and I will always be a champion for the people of New York City.”
Adams put out a statement shortly after the Post broke the news of Sewell’s resignation, thanking her for working “nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a year and a half,” and saying that “New Yorkers owe her a debt of gratitude.”
Mayor Adams addressed the Post’s story at an unrelated press conference on Monday, saying he is involved in the hiring at most agencies.
“Let’s be clear on one thing, because this is so important, the people of the City of New York elected one Mayor, Eric Adams. That’s who they elected,” he said. “Every agency in the city comes to me with a proposed leadership.”
He denied that he was making decisions for the commissioner.
A few hours later, Sewell smiled as she walked into City Hall on Monday, just after 3:30 p.m. She deferred all questions to a spokesperson.
Sewell had recently sought to strip NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey of between six and 10 vacation days as discipline for a finding by the Civilian Complaint Review Board that Maddrey had abused his authority by overturning the arrest of a retired cop in Nov. 2021.
Her proposed penalty for Maddrey — which he elected to challenge in an upcoming administrative trial — was in line with the discipline recommended by the CCRB but came after Adams twice said publicly that he stood by Maddrey and believed that the chief had acted appropriately in his decision to void the arrest of ex-cop Kruythoff Forrester.
Forrester was arrested on Thanksgiving Eve in 2021 by cops in Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct, in Brownsville, after three young boys alleged that after they hit Forrester’s storefront security camera with a basketball, he chased them on the streets for seven minutes and pointed a gun at one of them.
The retired policeman, who had worked under Maddrey when Maddrey served as the commanding officer of the 73 Precinct for three years, was found with a licensed firearm that the boys — ages 12 to 14 — described accurately.
That incident was first reported by THE CITY and detailed in an exclusive video investigation.
Sewell didn’t respond to voice and text messages seeking comment.
Her departure follows a flurry of exits from City Hall during the past six months as Adams enters his second year in office, including the first deputy mayor, chief housing officer, chief counsel and the mayor’s chief of staff.
Adams announced Sewell’s ‘historic’ appointment as police commissioner two weeks before he took control of City Hall on Jan. 1, 2022.
At a press conference in Queens in mid-December 2021, Mayor-Elect Adams said his team had conducted a national search before coming upon the 20-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department, who was serving as chief of detectives there at the time.
“I’m particularly proud of the historic choice we have made — our first woman police commissioner,” Adams said that day. “Chief Sewell’s appointment today is a powerful message to girls and young women across the city: There is no ceiling to your ambition.”
He also added that Sewell would work with him “day in and out to implement the vision I have laid out for the NYPD and the communities they serve.”
Yet Adams hired two of his old friends who were veterans of the NYPD and gave them prominent roles in shaping the city’s response to an increase in major crimes during the pandemic: Phillip Banks as deputy mayor for public safety and Timothy Pearson as a senior advisor on public safety.
As THE CITY previously reported, Banks almost immediately began meeting with top-level NYPD officials without Sewell present, in addition to having regular one-on-one meetings with the police commissioner.
And while Sewell appeared at most police-related announcements alongside Adams, she had almost no public appearances on her own — a departure from the practice of her predecessors.
More recently, it was Banks who began conducting weekly public safety briefings that are streamed live from the blue room inside City Hall.
But Sewell made recent strides in winning over support from rank-and-file members, most notably by promising late last year to lower the recommended discipline for some misconduct by NYPD members that came with presumed penalties she saw as “unfair.”
On Saturday, the Post reported that City Hall was newly requiring Sewell to get approval for any internal promotion decisions she wanted to make, including appointing officers to the role of detective.
Hours before Sewell’s resignation letter went out, Adams told the media that that level of oversight from City Hall wasn’t solely confined to the police department.
“Let’s be clear on one thing, because this is so important: The people of the City of New York elected one Mayor, Eric Adams. That’s who they elected,” he said. “Every agency in the city comes to me with a proposed leadership.”
He also denied that he was making decisions for the commissioner.
Just after 3:30 p.m., Sewell walked into City Hall with a smile but deferred all questions about mayoral intervention to a spokesperson. Her resignation email circulated to NYPD personnel about an hour later.
City Councilmember Kamillah Hanks, a Democrat from Staten Island who chairs the public safety committee, said that Sewell has been a “productive partner.”
“As the first Black woman police commissioner, she is a trendsetter and role model to many,” Hanks said in a statement. “I am saddened at her departure, and I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.”
This story has been updated.
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