During the hot summer of 2020, thousands of people took to the New York streets to protest the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and countless others who have fallen to police brutality. As the country waits for some type of police reform to get passed through Congress, somebody had to make a move.
New York City, one of the biggest cities in the country, took a huge step in diversifying the top of its police force. It’s not only a win for Black people, but those who seek more diverse faces when it comes to law enforcement in general.
Keenchant Sewell, a 22-year police veteran in Nassau Country has been tapped to the next NYPD top cop by Mayor-elect Eric Adams, according to the New York Times. She is the first Black woman to head the nation’s largest police department and only the third Black commissioner in its 178-year history. Sewell will take over effective Jan. 1st; current commissioner Dermot Shea will be retiring after 30 years of serving on the NYPD.
In a press conference in Queens, mayor-elect Adams had the following things to say about Sewell:
“She carried with her throughout her career a sledgehammer, and she crushed every glass ceiling that was put in her way. Today, she has crashed and destroyed the final one we need in New York City.”
“I am mindful of the historic nature of this announcement. As the first woman, and only the third black person to lead the NYPD in its 176-year history, I bring a different perspective, committed to making sure the department looks like the city it serves, and making the decision, just as Mayor-elect Adams did, to elevate women and people of color to leadership positions,” she said.
Sewell impressed Adams during meetings, beating out candidates such as former Seattle police chief Carmen Best and Philadelphia Commissioner Danielle Outlaw as per NBC New York. She boasts 25 years of experience and was recently the first Black woman promoted to Nassau Chief of Detectives in September 2020.
She has also outlined her main objectives in accepting the role which includes gun violence and diversity within the police force.
Sewell said she will be “laser-focused on violent crime” as commissioner, especially centering on gun violence, which has been trending upward not just in the city but across the nation.
“We are in a pivotal moment in New York as our city faces the twin challenge of public safety and police accountability,” Sewell said at the news conference. “They are not mutually exclusive.”
Being only the third Black commissioner in New York City’s history, Sewell also said she plans to focus on making the NYPD more diverse.
“I bring a different perspective, committed to make sure the department looks like the city it serves, and making the decision, just as Mayor-elect Adams did, to elevate women and people of color to leadership positions,” she said.
In this day and age, it’s crazy that we still have firsts referring to minority leadership, especially when it comes to law enforcement. Given what has happened throughout America’s social justice landscape in the past year and in New York, let’s hope that this will be a much-needed step in the right direction concerning community policing and brutality. If the biggest police force in the country can make this move, there’s no reason others can’t.