NEW YORK (WABC) -- NYC Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell announced her departure in a letter to members of the NYPD on Monday and now the big question is why and what is next.
After a year and a half on the job as the first woman to hold the position in NYPD's history, Sewell is stepping down.
Sewell received an impromptu standing applause Tuesday when her name was announced at the start of the honorary Honorary Police Commissioner For A Day event at Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan.
The entire auditorium stood up for a solid minute as an smiling Sewell motioned for them to sit down.
The rise in crime and five officers shot during her first month in office were all things the commissioner faced when she was appointed in January of 2022. During her tenure, she deployed new and controversial neighborhood safety teams which some credit with lowering the crime rate. Sewell also worked to get officers historic raises.
Mayor Eric Adams was seemingly surprised by the abrupt announcement but took time to applaud her accomplishments. Sources say tension had been brewing behind the scenes for months and that the commissioner has felt micromanaged by the mayor's team.
"I think she had the backing and support of the rank and file, but I think she wanted more autonomy with running the police department, which she is deserving as a police commissioner, I think that may have been a rub right there," said retired NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce.
Boyce strongly believes Sewell understood and addressed issues like morale and recruitment -- the biggest challenge.
Adams declined to speculate on Sewell's successor, or whether he will appoint another woman.
"I will make the right decision for the department, listen, New Yorkers have to be safe," Adams said.
The mayor declined to reveal why Sewell told him she was leaving but said he would not stand in her way.
When Adams ran for office in 2021, he vowed to appoint the NYPD's first female police commissioner. Eighteen months after taking office, it is time for him to pick another person to lead the nation's largest police department -- and the immediate frontrunners are all men.
Once Sewell leaves the department, First Deputy Commissioner Edward Caban will likely take over, at least temporarily.
He is a frontrunner to take the post full time. Caban would be the NYPD's first Hispanic police commissioner, answering longstanding concerns some community leaders that Latinos have not risen to the department's top levels.
Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey is close to the mayor and also has to be near the top of the list. Maddrey has run into controversy in the past, most recently docked between six and 10 vacations days by Sewell for voiding a Nov. 2021 arrest of a retired NYPD officer.
Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Phil Banks is also close to the mayor and oversees all public safety in his current City Hall role.
Banks resigned as chief of department in 2014 and was later named an unindicted co-conspirator in one of the NYPD's larger corruption scandals of recent years. He denied any wrongdoing and is currently hosting a weekly public safety briefing.
This could all be moot if the mayor vows again to name a female police commissioner. The last time, he looked outside the department, with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best and former Newark Police Chief Ivonne Roman all getting a close look.
One top female NYPD official close to the mayor, Juanita Holmes, was recently transferred to serve as Probation Commissioner.
Meanwhile, the Police Benevolent Association and the Detectives Endowment Association said Sewell's leadership and legacy wont be forgotten.
"This is a great loss, this is a really outstanding leader," Boyce said. "The men and women really respected her. And she carried herself with so much grace and discipline, and genuine sincerity."
Sewell will officially step down at the end of the month.
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