NYPD, FDNY heads say there’s a need to “normalize” women in the roles
▶ Watch Video: FDNY and NYPD commissioners make history as first women to lead NYC police and fire departments
New York City made history this year with two women appointed to lead the country’s largest fire and police departments for the first time ever. And one of those women, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, said it’s about time such appointments become normal.
“I keep saying that I think we need to normalize women in these roles,” she said Monday on “CBS Mornings.” “While these appointments are historic, and we don’t take them lightly, the work we do is what matters. And we cannot be the last in these roles.”
Sewell’s remarks came during her first joint interview with FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, who was sworn into the role late last month. Besides being the city’s first female commissioner in the fire department’s 157-year history, Kavanagh is also one of the youngest to serve in the role, at 40 years old.
“It means a lot to me,” Kavanagh said of her history-making appointment. “I hope to inspire other people to see themselves in positions that maybe they’d never thought of before. I hope it opens the door.”
Sewell led the Nassau County Police Department on Long Island before becoming the first woman to lead the NYPD earlier this year. As just the third Black commissioner in the department’s history, she said she was always seeking the next challenge in her career.
“I sought the next thing, whatever the next thing was, whatever the next test was, whatever the next challenge was, I was up for it,” Sewell said.
“I think both of us are up for this challenge. Those lights may be hot, but we’re ready for them,” she said, referring to the “bright” and “hot” spotlight she sometimes faces as leader of the NYPD.
Kavanagh joined the FDNY in 2014 and had been serving as interim commissioner since February. She was not a firefighter herself but doesn’t see that as a detriment.
“I run big things. I’ve been a fixer most of my career, and there are a lot of people who run these organizations who don’t come up the ranks,” she said. “I see myself as an advocate for members and a CEO of a large corporation.”
The two commissioners repeatedly praised the thousands of officers and firefighters who risk their lives for New Yorkers every day.
“It really is such an amazing organization. The men and women who do this work are so extraordinary,” Kavanagh said. “If that’s what you see everyday, no matter how hard the day in the office is, they inspire me, they keep me going.”
The joint interview happened two days after a gunman opened fire inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and leaving more than 20 others wounded. New York State Police said they were working with the NYPD to monitor online hate and any potential targets in the city.
“Anything that happens across the country, that horrific, we monitor, and we want to make sure that we have our assets in place to be able to offer comfort for our communities,” Sewell said. “We work well with our communities. We want to make sure that they’re safe, and we certainly believe that we have the resources to be able do that.”
Sewell also addressed a recent spate of attacks on the city’s subway system, saying the NYPD has “surged thousands of officers into the subway” and now makes announcements on the trains to let people know when there are police officers on board.