Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, the newly appointed police chief in Louisville, Kentucky, is the first Black woman to hold a full-time position in the troubled agency, giving the force renewed hope after years of criticism, following the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in 2020, according to Newsday.
Gwinn-Villaroel, 49, had served as interim chief since January when her predecessor, Erika Shields, resigned as part of a recent round of leadership changes.
She is the fifth person to oversee Louisville’s police department since Chief Steve Conrad was removed in June 2020, as a result of policemen killing a well-known restaurant owner during protests that summer, The New York Times reported.
Greenberg, who won the mayor’s race last year, had already stated in December that Gwinn-Villaroel would take over as acting chief when Shields announced her resignation in January.
“This is a challenging job. And over the last few months, it’s become very clear that the best person to do this work is already on the job,” the mayor said in a news conference.
Greenberg added that Gwinn-Villaroel showed leadership during the April mass massacre at a downtown bank when one of her officers was shot and injured.
Following the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement in March that it had discovered Louisville police engaged in a pattern of violating constitutional rights and discrimination, the newly appointed chief faces challenges in restoring community trust and recruiting new officers to a force with about 250 job openings.
Attorney General Merrick Garland made that announcement following an investigation brought on by Taylor’s shooting.
The investigation revealed, among other things, that the Louisville Police Department “discriminates against Black people in its enforcement activities,…..uses excessive force,” and “conducts searches based on invalid warrants.”
Furthermore, it claimed that the department infringes on the rights of those who engage in protected speech, such as the public demonstrations in the city during the summer of 2020 following Breonna Taylor’s passing.
Gwinn-Villaroel has promised to concentrate on restoring community trust and lowering violent crime in the city.
At a news conference, she stated, “We understand that we’ve got to continue to work on those relationships and build upon that community trust that we’re just every day working on. We are invested in making sure that we get it right.”
Earlier this month, Pamela Smith was also proposed as the upcoming police chief of Washington, D.C. continuing a trend of women in senior roles in the US police force. Smith’s nomination announcement came amid growing concerns about crime in the District this summer.