Hollywood is striking, so fittingly, Edward Caban lost the acting part of his title. He’s now officially the NYPD Commissioner, announced Mayor Eric Adams announced this past Monday, July 17. Caban stepped into the role after his predecessor Keechant Sewell abruptly resigned last month, previously serving under her as First Deputy Commissioner.
“The NYPD is the most consequential police department in all of law enforcement,” said Caban. “Its storied history is a living legacy of valor, bravery, and sacrifice — of ordinary New Yorkers who did extraordinary things. When a person in need rings the bell, you can always count on the NYPD to answer the call. Together, we will build upon our successes and continue to drive down crime and improve the quality of life in our communities.”
The storied NYPD critics are waiting in the wings with their “policy over personnel” outlook.
In a movie-esque, uber-produced press conference outside the 40th Precinct, Mayor Adams formally made the announcement.
Caban is the city’s first Latino police commissioner. The Bronx-born Caban is of Puerto Rican descent and the son of a transit cop. He joined the force in 1991. His predecessor Sewell was the city’s first Black woman police commissioner and was also appointed by Adams.
“The appointment of Ed Caban to Police Commissioner is not only historic, but it is a move to ensure structural stability, and instill confidence within the rank and file,” declared retired detective Marquez Claxton. The Director of Public Relations & Political Affairs of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, told the Amsterdam News, “Following the successful term of Keechant Sewell, it was important to put in place a well respected, well known and well liked, top tier law enforcement professional. He has strong supportive relationships in every nook and cranny of the NYPD. Eddie Caban is the perfect choice to move the Department forward.”
The Eric and Eddie show is not getting universal citywide applause though, especially with four teens shot within hours of the spectacular press conference announcing Caban as the new Police Commissioner; three in Times Square under the gun free zone sign, and the deadly broad daylight shooting of a teenager in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
“I am unimpressed by ‘the first person of a race’ strategy in a position. I am more concerned with how a person thinks and operates,” said Nova ‘Nana Asare’ Felder. The human rights activist told the Amsterdam News, “Caban may be an excellent administrator and may have been an excellent police officer, but those factors do not address systemic issues within policing. We as a community have to stop playing the politics of what someone looks like as a strategy, at least in NYC, it has failed our community.”
“Announcing a new head if the NYPD does nothing to alleviate the problems that the City is facing,” City Councilman Charles Barron told the Amsterdam News. “We need a change in policy, not personnel. There are a slew of issues that are hampering New York, including: increased homelessness exacerbated by the migrant issue; and crime is rampant from the streets to the subways no matter what Mayor Cop Eric Adams’ stats report. On top of that, there is a deteriorating relationship between the police and the community, and having a new person in place means nothing if there is not a radical change in strategy and emphasis. In order to address these big issues there needs to be a multi-million dollar anti-poverty initiative to help the youth and low income families in particular.”
Felder continued his analysis, “We have an African American Mayor, a Caribbean American pPublic aAdvocate, a police force that is 16% African American, a city council that is majority women, and Black and brown and now a pPolice cCommissioner who is Puerto Rican, and we still have economic issues, public safety issues, issues in education and all other areas of human interaction that are negatively affecting our community.”
The former Medgar Evers College educator told the Amsterdam News that the community feels if Caban can address these issues and “make a difference in moving us away from the status quo, and makes police officers real members of the society in order to transform a system based in punishing the weakest of us, then we are on board. If his administration is just the same old, same old with a brown face then we are out on him too. We are out on anyone that pushes the inequity of any system, regardless of their ethnicity, race and/or color.”
A number of seemingly excited electeds offered praise with eager anticipation however. “History was made… with the swearing-in of Edward Caban, a 30-year Bronx veteran in the NYPD, who will serve as our city`s first Latino police commissioner,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson over email. “As public safety remains a top concern for many New Yorkers, I look forward to working with our new commissioner in ensuring we invest in our communities with resources for our residents and families to feel safe in their neighborhoods without the fear of violence.” “As a fellow Bronxite and Boricua, it is with great honor and orgullo that I congratulate Commissioner Caban on becoming the New York Police Department’s first Latino police commissioner,” stated Council Member Marjorie Velázquez. “Commissioner Caban is an excellent role model for our youth and an inspiration to our community, a shining example of the heights we can reach when given opportunities to show what we can do. Commissioner Caban’s and his family’s dedication to public service and community is unmatched.
“As a Parkchester native, and having risen through the ranks of NYPD, Commissioner Caban brings a unique perspective to the job, understanding both the needs and concerns of our community as well as the needs of his fellow officers.”
“I want to personally congratulate the new commissioner on his historic appointment,” activist AT Mitchell told the Amsterdam News. The Adams-appointed anti-gun violence “czar”‘Czar’ said, “I look forward to respectfully bridging the gap between community and police during his tenure. We are making some improvements in this area but still have a long way to go. I will remain optimistically cautious until further notice.”
Meanwhile, Caban’s appointment coincides with a new president of the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing most NYPD officers. after Patrick Hendry replaced long-time head Patrick Lynch at the start of this month.
“We congratulate Commissioner Caban on his permanent appointment,” said Hendry in a statement. “We know he knows what New York City police officers are going through right now, and that strong leadership is needed to reverse the current staffing crisis. There is no time to waste. We look forward to getting back to work with him immediately to improve quality-of-life for our police officers and ensure public safety for our entire city.”
Roughly a quarter of those employed by the NYPD in 2021 identify as Latino, according to data from the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity.
Caban inherits concerns of rising index crime and continued—albeit NYPD-reported statistically declining—citywide gun violence his predecessor Sewell was tasked with confronting. There were multiple shootings on Caban’s first day. Some were in areas traditionally spared by gun violence, like Bensonhurst, where a 15-year-old was killed and Times Square, where three teens were wounded in the famously designated “gun free zone.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who recently touted federal legislation banning blueprints for 3D printed guns, said Caban will play a significant role in curbing shootings and getting illegal firearms off the street.
“Tackling the epidemic of gun violence will take strong, decisive action from every level of government, from federal to state to local,” said Gillibrand. “I plan to continue to work with the NYPD, including Commissioner Caban, and other local leaders to develop comprehensive strategies to get illegal guns off our streets and help save lives.”
On Tuesday night, one person died while three others were stabbed in Williamsburg — putting an exclamation point on the ongoing city violence. Stepping into Caban’s former seat is Tania Kinsella, the new first deputy commissioner, who is tasked with the endeavor of fighting crime.
Adams said, “Why is her appointment so significant? The NYPD has a great crime fighting profile, but it has an image problem. When you look at the department, you don’t see youthfulness, you don’t see the diversity at the top….She brings 20 years of experience to the job. I use this term often, symbolism and substance. I saw her during my 18th month on the streets of the city. Her poise, her character, her ability to lead from the front with a level of dignity and caring was just unparalleled…The first time I saw her when I responded to a job, I made a note in my diary. I said, ‘One day she’s going to be my first deputy commissioner.” Kinsella joined the NYPD in 2003, working out of the 120th Precinct in Staten Island. She was promoted to captain in 2016, became an executive officer for the chief of patrol, and subsequently a deputy chief last year.
“Aside from being a mother, working as a police officer is the most deeply rewarding job I can imagine, and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to do even more for the city I love,” said Kinsella. “From the very first moment I joined the NYPD 20 years ago, it was love at first sight because being a police officer is about so much more than keeping people safe. It’s about building community, helping others from all walks of life, and making a difference in people’s lives, especially those in need.”
Bragging on his published stats, Adams said, “Our summer safety plan is already showing strong results. Major crimes are down in all 68 enforcement zones because of your leadership. Commissioner Caban has had a strong hand in these historic achievements. And will continue this legacy of success going forward, bringing crime down, continuing our progress on reducing transit crime, and car thefts, enhancing the department’s focus on quality of life issues like retail theft. And above all, supporting our officers in doing everything in their power to keep our city safe, and our men and women safe.”
But as criminal and social justice remains a hot button issue in the five boroughs and beyond, Felder pointed out, “Instead of talking about Caban as ‘The first’ Latino police commissioner,’ the real story from this week is the U.S. Attorney of Manhattan, Damian Williams putting a motion for a federal takeover of the entire NYC Department of Corrections. His office has called the federal partnership with the NYC DOC efforts over the last 8 years a ‘fFailure.’ This announcement comes in the wake of the death of William Johnstone, the 25th person to die in Rikers Island this year.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.