Mayor Eric Adams on Friday officially announced the appointment of NYPD training chief Juanita Holmes as the new head of the city’s Department of Probation (DOP), while waving away reports that conflicts between Holmes and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell ended her tenure at the department.
Shortly before Holmes’ appointment as the new head of DOP was announced by City Hall on Thursday afternoon, the New York Daily News reported she was ousted from the NYPD after running afoul of Sewell for inviting the rapper Cardi B to a police event and for going over the commissioner’s head in changing a department training requirement.
Adams, however, said the appointment was unrelated to the reported friction between Holmes and Sewell; and pointed to Holmes’ volunteer work with young girls through her “Girl Talk” initiative as a core reason why she was chosen to lead DOP — the agency charged with overseeing those on probation in the city. Plus, he said, Holmes was the best person to continue the work of her predecessor, Ana Bermúdez — who stepped down from the role last December.
“I don’t listen to the noise, I had a vacancy, we looked at other candidates and I know the skill set that Commissioner Holmes brings to this, as she stated, she has a real passion,” Adams said, in response to a reporter’s question.
“I think that sometimes we don’t fully understand those in law enforcement, what they bring in their volunteer state,” he added. “So, here it is, we are trying to change the aspect of probation, to continue what the former commissioner has done, and this is the best fit, someone that understands that you don’t throw people away.”
Holmes served in the NYPD for 36 years, including stints as head of the department’s School Safety Division and chief of patrol, where she oversaw all of the force’s uniformed officers. While in that role, she founded the Girl Talk initiative, which pairs cops with young girls to serve as mentors.
“I really feel my years of experience as well as my experience with children, mentorship groups, youth programs, really really qualifies me for this position,” Holmes said. “But more so because I’m passionate about it. I’ve always been an advocate for those who touch the criminal justice system.”
Adams took things a step further in his defense of Holmes, applauding her for enlisting Cardi B to attend a Girl Talk event at the NYPD Academy in Queens last month, where the rapper reportedly danced and spoke with young girls — counting toward 15 days of community service she’s required to complete following her involvement in a 2018 assault.
He said Holmes’ invitation to Cardi B shows her commitment to giving those involved with the criminal justice system a second chance.
“There are those who critique, ‘why would you bring Cardi B because she was arrested?’” the mayor said. “The same reason you brought Cardi B is why people voted for me, because I was arrested. You don’t discard people. This is an administration that believes perfectly imperfect people can show from their lessons to help people as they move forward in life.”
According to published reports, Holmes invited Cardi B without the commissioner’s knowledge.
The mayor refused, however, to allow Holmes to answer a reporter’s question that dealt with another tiff she had with Sewell. The quarrel stemmed from Holmes calling for the requirement that NYPD recruits run 1½ miles in 14 minutes and 21 seconds to be dropped—despite Sewell’s protests. Holmes, according to the News’ report, was able to call in a favor with City Hall and get the requirement nixed.
But the mayor said questions about Holmes’ time in the NYPD should be directed to Sewell.
“She’s (Holmes’) now the commissioner of probation,” he said. “She will handle questions on the Department of Probation. The commissioner or I will handle questions on the [1½ mile] run. She has a new job and a new role and she’s not going to be giving her advice on things that impact [the] NYPD.”