News & Politics

NYPD commissioner resigns amid tension with Mayor Eric Adams

Keechant Sewell, the first woman to lead the NYPD, is out after 18 months.

Keechant Sewell

Keechant Sewell Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office

New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell is resigning from her job as top cop, ending her 18-month tenure amid an ongoing power struggle with City Hall.

In a statement on Monday evening, Mayor Eric Adams thanked Sewell for her leadership. “When we came into office, crime was trending upwards, and thanks to the brave men and women of the NYPD, most of the major crime categories are now down,” the emailed statement read. “The commissioner worked nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a year and a half, and we are all grateful for her service. New Yorkers owe her a debt of gratitude.”

But even if Adams has publicly praised his commissioner, there has been tension behind the scenes. Sewell wasn’t able to make even simple moves like promoting a cop to detective without approval from City Hall, the New York Post reported Saturday. Police insiders have long said it seemed like Adams and his Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks – both of whom are retired police officers – were bigfooting Sewell, and the problem reportedly got worse when the commissioner followed through on disciplining Chief of Department Jeff Maddrey for wrongly intervening in an arrest. Maddrey is a favorite of Adams and others in City Hall, and the mayor seemed to undermine Sewell by publicly defending Maddrey. 

One City Council member who asked for anonymity to discuss a developing situation, suggested that Sewell leaving One Police Plaza was more a question of when than if. “If someone is surprised,” they said, “that’s because they haven’t been paying attention.”

Sewell became the first woman to lead the department when Adams appointed her in December 2021, and her resignation puts her among the first departures of major agency heads in Adams’ administration, along with former Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins and former Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich.

City Council Member Kamillah Hanks, who chairs the Committee on Public Safety, praised the departing commissioner, who previously served as chief of detectives in the Nassau County Police Department. “In the short time I worked with Commissioner Sewell, we had a productive partnership,” Hanks told City & State. “As the first Black woman police commissioner, she is a trendsetter and role model to many.”

Sewell’s resignation was first reported by the Post. It wasn’t immediately clear when her last day would be. But the announcement comes at a time of change for the department, as Patrick Lynch, the long serving president of the NYPD’s biggest union, is also stepping down. Sewell and the Police Benevolent Association had a much more positive relationship than previous leaders, with the union even naming her “Person of the Year” in 2022.