On Monday afternoon, Keechant Sewell, the commissioner of the New York Police Department, walked into Mayor Eric Adams’ office unannounced, according to a mayoral aide.
The two found themselves alone and talked for about 15 minutes. Then about a half hour later, at around 4:30 p.m., he sent a department-wide email that shook City Hall and stunned the 34,000 officers who received it. In it, Ms. Sewell said that she would resign.
Ms Sewell, 51, a cautious civil servant known for her impartial professionalism, had given little sign that she was unhappy. In the weeks leading up to her announcement, and the day after, she made the kind of public appearances expected of a commissioner: Ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, walking in the Puerto Rican Day Parade and speaking in promotion and commemorative ceremonies.
On Tuesday morning, the police commissioner for less than 18 months spoke to high school students who were honored by the Police Athletic League, including one who was awarded the title “Police Commissioner for a Day.” She told them law enforcement was a rewarding career: “The NYPD and our city need more young problem solvers.”
However, Ms Sewell did not say anything about her own frustrations. Only some of her closest aides knew she would announce her resignation, according to people with knowledge of the commissioner’s plans.
Over the past year, rumors have swirled that other appointees in the department were undermining his authority, specifically Philip Banks III, the deputy mayor for public safety, and Timothy Pearson, a senior adviser to Mr. Adams, according to multiple police officers and the City Council. officials And in recent days, his relationship with Mr. Adams appeared to have reached a breaking point, according to a senior City Hall official.
Ms Sewell declined to comment, according to a department spokesperson. Deputy Mayor Banks said in a text message that any suggestion of meddling was “false gossip” and that he would call him to comment “when he receives an appointment from Commissioner Sewell.”
Last month, Ms Sewell had moved to strip Jeffrey Maddrey, the highest-ranking uniformed officer and close associate of Mr Adams, of 10 days vacation, after he interfered with the arrest of a retired officer who was chasing three children while armed.
Around the same time, she was told she couldn’t make discretionary promotions even at the lowest levels of the department without getting clearance from Adams’ management, said Kenneth Corey, a former department head who worked with Ms Sewell until she left. joy. in November.
“She was gradually being stripped of power,” he said. “Now they had taken the power to make the most basic decisions.”
That kind of meddling hasn’t happened in previous administrations, Corey said, praising Sewell as an “incredibly smart” commissioner who acted with “honor and integrity.”
Mr Corey, who said senior officials had briefed him on the department’s recent inner workings, said Ms Sewell’s pending departure had “devastated” and angered many officers.
“They wonder what’s next,” he said.
Ms. Sewell has not explained the reason for her decision to leave the job, which paid about $243,000 a year. On Tuesday afternoon, her office issued a statement thanking Mr. Adams, whom she had not mentioned in the internal email announcing his resignation, for the opportunity to lead the department.
“The time I have spent in our communities, getting to know New Yorkers every day, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my tenure,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, Mr Adams began an unrelated news conference by saying that Ms Sewell was “probably my most proud appointment” but acknowledged that she was a deeply involved manager.
Ms Sewell and Mr Adams were expected to attend a Tuesday night celebration hosted by the Gay Officers Action League at Police Department headquarters, an event they both agreed to attend long before it was scheduled to take place. announced his resignation. Mr. Adams canceled at 6 pm
Little is known about Monday’s conversation between the mayor and Ms Sewell, or what exactly led her to resign.
Patrick Ryder, commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department, where Ms. Sewell was previously chief of detectives, said he spoke to her on the phone Monday afternoon after news of her resignation broke.
“She is a pure professional. She won’t say a bad word about anyone,” she said. “She just said, ‘It was time to move on.'”
In the days before Ms. Sewell’s resignation, she spoke at the Police Foundation’s annual gala at the Intrepid Museum and attended Saturday Night Lights, anti-violence community events held throughout the city.
On Sunday, about 30 hours before making her announcement, Ms. Sewell marched down Fifth Avenue in the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Corey said he saw Sewell at 8 am Monday during a charity golf event in the Bronx, hours before she announced her resignation.
There were no indications of what was to come, he said. But she asked if she had seen a New York Post story that ran on Sunday citing anonymous sources who described his “loss of power” to the City Council.
Mr. Corey had done it and told him, “If that’s true, that’s terrible.”
She simply replied that they would talk later. Hours later she saw the news that she had resigned.
He was startled, but not entirely surprised.
“She is anything but a figurehead,” Mr. Corey said. “She’s going to do the job she was hired to do or she won’t,” he added.
Just after 10 am Tuesday at One Police Plaza, the department’s Lower Manhattan headquarters, Ms. Sewell received a standing ovation at the Police Athletic League ceremony.
Some 200 people, including Chief Maddrey, applauded Ms. Sewell for about two minutes before a smiling Ms. Sewell motioned for everyone to take their seats.
Ms. Sewell then gave a four-minute speech, encouraging students to consider making law enforcement their life.
“We ask that you stay involved with the Police Department,” he said, adding that the department needed young people who would think “carefully and creatively.”
“I look forward to the day after you finish high school or college when you can consider a career with the NYPD”
Shortly after, she was taken off the stage.