Eric Adams was committed to it and he kept his word. The brand new mayor of New York, democrat but conservative, had promised to appoint a woman at the head of its municipal police force (the NYPD) for the first time in the history of the colossal force which employs some 35,000 officers. It is now done: during a press conference held on Wednesday, the councilor appointed Keechant Sewell, 49, to succeed Dermot Shea, who had held this position since the end of 2019. in office on Jan. 1, the same day Eric Adams officially becomes mayor of New York, two months after his big victory in the municipal election.
“It’s an amazing opportunity. And I take it very seriously, given the historical nature of the thing ”, rejoiced in an interview with New York Post the one who will also become the third black person to lead the city police. A native of Queens, Keechant Sewell has worked for over 20 police in Nassau County, New York, including the Narcotics Department and as a hostage negotiator. She was promoted in September 2020 to the rank of chief investigator of this entity and as such led a team of around 2,500 officials.
The issue of the police was at the heart of the Democratic primary for the municipal elections, won on June 22 by Eric Adams. The progressive fringe of the party, led by New York elected representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calls for deep reforms in the face of accusations of racism and police violence brought by Black Lives Matter activists, especially after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. But Eric Adams, himself black and a former police officer, is not on that line. He declared himself opposed to the slogan «Defund the police» whose supporters call for reinvesting part of the funding dedicated to the police in social programs, or even to abolish the police for good.
“With Keechant Sewell, Eric Adams made a skilful choice. By appointing a black woman, he sends a token of goodwill to progressive activists. A part of them could be satisfied with it, even if they do not agree with it on the merits ”, explain to Release Ibrahim Bechrouri, assistant professor at the University of the City of New York and a specialist in policing issues in the United States. The future chief of police thus spoke out in favor of the reconstitution of the units of plainclothes police officers, ensuring that they “Work properly”. These had been dismantled in New York after several cases of violence. “It is aligned with the positions of Eric Adams: on the one hand it denounces police violence, on the other it proposes a security discourse of zero tolerance”, sums up Ibrahim Bechrouri.
Barely chosen to take the head of the NYPD, the interested party named her priority: the fight against “Violent crime”, she said to herself “Absolutely determined” to fight. Since the start of the health crisis, the crime figures have increased significantly in New York, although a decline has been observed recently. 167 shootings were recorded in August, about double the pre-pandemic levels. “We are at a pivotal moment in New York. Our city faces the two challenges of public safety and police accountability. These are not mutually exclusive objectives ”, Keechant Sewell insisted on Wednesday at his press conference.