New Louisville police chief sworn in as city deals with fallout from Breonna Taylor case

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Yvette Gentry has been sworn in as new interim chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department as the city deals with fallout from the Breonna Taylor case and a record high in homicides.

Gentry took the stage Thursday morning and was given the new role, as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and others spoke to those in attendance. 

Gentry will be the first woman to lead LMPD. A Louisville native, she previously served four years as deputy chief of the department before retiring in 2014 and recently worked as a project director with Metro United Way’s Black Male Achievement program.

“I know I’m interim,” Gentry told those in attendance at Louisville Metro Hall. “But I represent something different to a lot of people being the first woman to take this title, so I’m not going to shortchange that.”

Yvette Gentry, left, is sworn in as interim chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Oct. 1, 2020

Gentry’s first day on the job comes after interim LMPD chief Robert Schroeder retired Wednesday. He has been working with Gentry since Sept. 14 to ensure a smooth transition, according to the mayor’s office. He initially took the interim position in June, after former Chief Steve Conrad was fired in the aftermath of the David McAtee shooting.

Louisville police in crisis:With Breonna Taylor protests, COVID-19 and record homicides

“Chief Schroeder rose to every challenge as interim chief,” Fischer said Wednesday in a statement. “He understood immediately that our police officers have to balance protecting people’s First Amendment rights with the need to preserve the safety of the public.”

Gentry has a challenge to rise to as well.

The department has faced heat in the past several months over the department’s role in the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Louisville who was shot and killed by LMPD officers executing a no-knock warrant at her apartment. Protests against police brutality have taken place in the city for more than 120 days and continue into October.

Yvette Gentry was named the new interim LMPD Police Chief on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

Speaking to the audience in a video message in the moments after she was sworn in, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he’s confident Gentry has “knowledge and skills necessary to lead LMPD during these difficult times,” a point echoed by Fischer when he took the microphone.

“This has been a challenging time unlike anything any of us have ever seen, with the COVID-19 pandemic and then four months of daily protests for racial justice,” the mayor said. “I appreciate the work that LMPD has been doing under, really, unprecedented scrutiny and stress. … I’m grateful — very grateful — that we have another experienced, respected, distinguished public safety professional to take on the role of chief of LMPD.”

Gentry has said she plans to place an emphasis on accountability and transparency, promising Tuesday that after she took office she would take down the plywood boards that have covered the windows of her office, which were put up around the downtown police station when protests began several months ago.

She will spend time mending the department’s relationship with the community by appearing at events around the town, she added.

Still, her tenure is expected to be brief. Fischer’s office said earlier this week that city officials expect to have a permanent chief in place by the start of 2021, and Thursday announced an eight-member search panel that will interview candidates for the position has been formed.

Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY

Follow reporter Lucas Aulbach on Twitter @LucasAulbach

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