Louisville Appoints First Black Woman Interim Police Chief, Who Addresses Breonna Taylor, Racism and Healing

Yvette Gentry speaks at a news conference on September 7, 2020, after being introduced by Mayor Greg Fischer as the Louisville Metro Police Department’s new interim police chief.
Yvette Gentry speaks at a news conference on September 7, 2020, after being introduced by Mayor Greg Fischer as the Louisville Metro Police Department’s new interim police chief.
Screenshot: The Courier-Journal

For the first time in Kentucky’s history, a Black woman will lead the Louisville Metro Police Department, and she appears to be well aware that the death of Breonna Taylor and the subsequent protests and civil unrest that have gone on for months means she has her work cut out for her.

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The Courier-Journal reports that Yvette Gentry, a former Louisville Metro Police deputy chief, will take over as interim chief of the LMPD on Oct. 1. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Gentry as the new interim chief following the announcement that current interim chief, Robert Schroeder, would retire at the end of Septemberafter four months in the position. During a news conference Monday, Schroeder said he is leaving his position “knowing this department is in good hands.”

“I’ve known Yvette Gentry my entire policing career,” he said. “She is a capable and proven leader. She is the right person at the right time to move this police department forward until a new police chief is selected.”

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Gentry retired from the force in 2014 but was called on to be the first woman and the third Black person to serve as chief of the department. During the news conference, she addressed the city’s unrest in the wake of Taylor’s death and the wave of demonstrations that have taken place since.

“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 served with all my heart in west Louisville, that was boarded for 20 or 30 years.”

“Everyone…[the] past four months have been tough,” she continued. “It’s been tough on police officers trying to hold the line, It’s been tough for the men and women out there protesting over 100 days. Seeing things just feel so hopeless.”

Gentry added: “I will just say: That is just a glimpse of how a lot of people have been feeling for a long time, and we can’t go back. I think our city is at a point of reckoning that only truth can bring us out of. Only truth can break us out; only truth can take away darkness. We can’t just hide behind signs that say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Blue Lives Matter’ all that stuff. We gotta ask ourselves: If Breonna Taylor’s name came across an application in this city, would she get an interview? Does your board of decision-makers and influencers, anyone who influences, does anybody look like her.”

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She also spoke on racism in Louisville and about her “well-resourced Black son” who worked two jobs to “move into the good neighborhood” and how “three days later the neighbors were calling in drug dealing complaints.”

“I spent 20-something years willing to die for a city that wouldn’t even make my son feel welcome,” she said.

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Gentry told the Courier-Journal that she never wanted to be police chief and that she didn’t apply for the job, but for the city to heal and move forward, someone has to step up.

“When you live in Louisville, and you raise your kids here like I do, and your family’s here, I want that chief to be successful,” she said. “So, even though I wasn’t interested in the full-time job, I realized that somebody has to stand in the gap.”

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“Being a Black woman, and a veteran and a former police officer, when you’ve worn all the hats of people who are out here, wanting to be heard, and you’ve worked in a place where you’ve tried to be heard and didn’t necessarily feel like you were, I just feel like I have that type of experience that I can bring in there,” Gentry continued. “People are just so far apart. And maybe, I can be in the middle and I can bridge it.”

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

Seems like the go-to move for law enforcement, these days, is to hire black folk to chief of police positions.