Louisville has been making rounds in the news lately because it the place where EMT Breonna Taylor was killed in a no-knock raid in her home by white Louisville police officers. It is in the news again and this time, there is a little win for Yvette Gentry, who has been appointed interim police chief by the mayor of Louisville. This makes her the first Black woman to lead the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Her wealth of experience qualified her for the position as she has served on the Louisville Metro Police Department for more than 20 years. Gentry served as deputy chief in 2011 before retiring from the department in 2014.
The mayor, Greg Fischer, said Gentry was his choice because she intends on helping the force to “reimagine public safety and address systemic racism.”
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“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.
This appointment is timely as there have bouts of protests in the U.S. and other parts of the world to end police brutality and systemic racism after the deaths of George Floyd and Taylor at the hands of police.
“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 added.
Gentry is filling this seat temporarily. According to city officials, she did not apply for a permanent seat at the table and will serve her six months term to full capacity beginning October 1. The seat for a permanent chief might hopefully be filled by the end of the year, officials said.
Chief Robert Schroeder is set to retire at the end of the month and Gentry will take over from him. He spoke highly of his successor.
“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 station WFPL.
Former Chief Steve Conrad was Schroeder’s predecessor who was fired after investigations revealed that the officers had not turned on their body cameras “during a fatal encounter with local business owner David McAtee during a protest,” NPR reported.
The new interim chief has some big shoes to fill even though her tenure is shortlived. She is currently the Project Director of Black Male Achievement at United Way of Kentucky and is taking a leave of absence to work in the capacity of the police chief.
“I prayed and even when I wanted to change my mind God had already told me it was the right thing to do,” Gentry said. “For all of you who urged me to take this position and try to move the needle, I’m here.”
An emotional Gentry also spoke on Monday about her new role to some Louisville residents stating she was fully aware of 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.”
“I appreciate the opportunity. This was not easy for us, Greg Fischer, was it?” Gentry added. “This is going to signal some change. A new day is coming.”