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Louisville Selects Black Woman As City's Interim Police Chief

Yvette Gentry was named interim police chief for Louisville Metro Police Department. She retired from the department in 2014 and will be the first Black woman to lead the department.
Yvette Gentry was named interim police chief for Louisville Metro Police Department. She retired from the department in 2014 and will be the first Black woman to lead the department.

The mayor of Louisville, Ky., has named Yvette Gentry as the city's new interim police chief, making her the first Black woman to lead the Louisville Metro Police Department when she starts on Oct. 1.

Gentry is not a new face at the department. She served more than 20 years with the Louisville Metro Police Department, including as its deputy chief starting in 2011, before retiring from the force in 2014.

She will be the troubled department's third chief since the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, by white Louisville police officers. Taylor's death, along with those of George Floyd in Minneapolis and others, has sparked national protests calling for an end of racial inequities and police brutality.

Mayor Greg Fischer said he selected Gentry because she wants to help "reimagine public safety and address systemic racism."

"We wanted somebody right now that represents some independence of view point so that we could move forward with that," Fischer said at a news conference announcing her appointment on Monday.

"Of course, Yvette's got a lot of experience already with LMPD and has done other roles outside of LMPD that I think will make her a good chief now," Fischer said.

City officials said Gentry did not apply for a permanent position as chief but is committed to serve in an interim capacity for up to six months. Officials hope to name a permanent chief by the end of the year.

Gentry vows to 'try to move the needle'

Gentry, who is is taking a leave of absence from her role as Project Director of Black Male Achievement at United Way of Kentucky, became emotional as she spoke Monday about taking on her new role.

"I prayed and even when I wanted to change my mind God had already told me it was the right thing to do," Gentry added. "For all of you who urged me to take this position and try to move the needle, I'm here."

She also spoke to a broad cross section of Louisville residents about the "reckoning" the city is undergoing.

"I think our city is at a point of reckoning that only truth can bring us out of," Gentry said.

"I'm not here just to help you unboard your beautiful buildings downtown," Gentry said. "I'm here to work with you to unboard the community that I serve ... with all of my heart in West Louisville that was boarded for 20 or 30 years and I just could not find the help. So, I'm here to help you do that, because you promised to help me do that."

Breonna Taylor case looms large

Gentry will take over for interim Chief Robert Schroeder, who is set to retire at the end of the month.

"I've known Yvette Gentry my entire policing career. ... She is the right person at the right time to move this police department forward until a new police chief is selected," Schroeder was quoted as saying by member station WFPL.

Schroeder replaced former Chief Steve Conrad, who was fired June 1 after it came to light that officers had not activated their body cameras during a fatal encounter with local business owner David McAtee during a protest.

A state investigation found that the fatal shot came from the Kentucky National Guard, which was assisting LMPD respond to a crowd protesting Taylor's death and out past the city's 9 p.m. curfew.

There's also been mounting pressure to bring formal charges against the officers involved in the March 13 shooting of Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical worker who was killed when police forced their way into her home during a narcotic search.

No drugs were found at the home.

Officer Brett Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department in June. Two other officers — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — remain on administrative leave.

Last week, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron met with FBI agents to review ballistics report into Taylor's death. Cameron is expected to announce in the coming weeks whether criminal charges will be filed against the officers.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.