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John Chell shot a man to death in 2008, and a civil jury found he “intentionally discharged” his gun. The Adams administration put him in charge of the largest bureau in the NYPD.
- Commanding Officer of 79th Precinct, NYPD
- Commanding Officer of the 75th Precinct, NYPD
- Commanding Officer of the Brooklyn South Detective Bureau, NYPD
- Commanding Officer of the Brooklyn North Detective Bureau, NYPD
- Lieutenant, Brooklyn South Larceny Squad, NYPD
- Chief of Patrol, NYPD
Eric Adams ran for mayor as a police reformer who cared about police accountability. So some people were surprised when his NYPD Commissioner put a killer cop in charge of the department’s sprawling patrol bureau.
John Chell was a lieutenant in the NYPD’s Brooklyn South Larceny squad when he shot and killed Ortanzso Bovell in 2008. Chell said he fired accidentally, as he fell to the ground. He was never charged in the incident and the NYPD closed its own investigation without ever interviewing him. (The NYPD suggested this is a routine practice). But in a civil suit brought by Bovell’s mother, after hearing from witnesses, ballistics experts, and Chell himself, a jury decided that, notwithstanding his testimony, Chell had, in fact, intentionally fired his gun. They awarded Bovell’s mother $2.5 million.
Chell also racked up 10 misconduct allegations over his career, for use of force, abuse of authority, and discourtesy. But in each instance, investigators either weren’t able to definitively prove the misconduct happened or they couldn’t get the person who complained to cooperate with their investigation. He was also a named defendant in several lawsuits, including one alleging that Chell discriminated against a cop under his command because he was Nigerian. That case was dismissed.
The NYPD did not respond to Hell Gate’s request for comment for this entry.
Despite all this, Chell continued to climb the ranks, and when Jeffrey Maddrey was made chief of department in 2022, Chell was installed as chief of patrol. Since then, Chell has been one of the most visible figures in Adams’s NYPD. He has presided over a dramatic escalation in dangerous NYPD car chases. It’s an escalation that was challenged by the NYPD chief of risk management— until he was fired.
Last summer, Chell was caught on video instructing police specifically to arrest accredited journalist (and Hell Gate contributor) Stephanie Keith as she was covering a protest, telling cops to “lock her up, lock her up!“
The mayor and NYPD leadership returned from a tour of Israel over the summer enthusiastic about making wider use of police drones. Sure enough, the NYPD use of drones is skyrocketing, from surveillance of backyard holiday parties to people exercising their constitutional right to protest, with Chell selling the proliferation of drones to the public. Chell appeared as a guest on the radio show of legendary racist Sid Rosenberg to talk about a pro-Palestine protest in Bay Ridge, not objecting when Rosenberg described the protesters as “animals.” “There is the First Amendment we have to deal with,” he told Rosenberg, but when people resist police, “We’re gonna take care of business.”
Chell seems unbothered by the optics of questionable radio appearances. In November, Brooklyn prosecutors had to drop weapons charges against Inna Vernikov, the City Council member who brought a gun to a protest, because Chell’s NYPD didn’t bother to arrest her or secure her gun on the spot. A few days later, Chell made an appearance on a radio show hosted by Vernikov’s lawyer.
- John Chell, NYPD Chief Who Killed Ortanzso Bovell, Helps Oversee Cops Probing Murder of His Brother Orenzso | The Daily Beast
- NYPD ‘Accidental’ Killer Cop’s Rise to Brooklyn Chief Questioned | THE CITY
- Mother of man shot dead by police wins $2.5M in wrongful death trial | NY Daily News
- Civilian Complain Review Board Complaints | 50-a.org
- Veteran photojournalist arrested at Jordan Neely protests asks judge and DA Alvin Bragg to clear her name, protect journalists’ ability to work in NYC | NY Daily News
- The NYPD will police Labor Day parties with surveillance drones | The Verge
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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