The most salient fact about public safety in New York is that murders are down 19% from this point last year; violations have decreased by 13.5%; shootings are down 21%; and crime in transit has fallen by 21.5%. Felony assaults, an outlier, increased 10.5%. If the positive trends pick up, that’s basically all the game.
But there’s a sideshow in the locker room that distracts from Team Adams on the field: NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell has seen a few lines of authority twisted into knots.
Let’s be clear: Eric Adams, former police captain and current mayor-elect, is ultimately in charge of the department, just like he is in charge of sanitation, education, parks, etc. Adams chose the commissioner he wanted, who serves as he pleases. Adams also appointed Phil Banks as deputy mayor for public safety, which was his prerogative. Banks is supposed to oversee the wide range of strategies and agencies, while Sewell is supposed to run the NYPD.
Why, then, did NYPD training chief Juanita Holmes feel she could go over Sewell’s head to get Adams to endorse a change in the department’s physical training prerequisites? Holmes, that already last year Made fitness testing for recruits substantially easier. — lobbied to remove the requirement that recruits must complete a 1.5-mile run in a set time. Sewell, who saw the change as an unacceptable lowering of standards, said no, but Holmes went to City Hall and convinced Adams of his boss.
As the fight understandably introduced tension and confusion to the upper ranks of the Police Department, Holmes has just been ousted to head the city’s Probation Department.
Thats not all. Our cross competitor reported that Sewell “hosted a smaller private meeting with reporters on crime statistics” at the same time that Banks was doing one of his new weekly public briefings on the same topic. Left hand, meeting with the right hand.
Personality conflicts happen. Disagreements between mayors and commissioners happen. But such inevitable friction should never undermine the authority of department leaders to do their jobs. Unravel the chain of command.