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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Louisville Appoints First Black Woman to Head Troubled Police Force

Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, aged 49, has been appointed as the permanent police chief of the troubled Louisville Metro Police Department. She is the fifth person to assume this position since June 2020, following a series of leadership changes amid the turmoil that ensued after the police killing of Breonna Taylor and a damning report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Making history, Ms. Gwinn-Villaroel becomes the first Black woman to hold the position of chief in the Louisville Metro Police Department. She had been serving as interim chief since January, taking over after the resignation of her predecessor, Erika Shields.

Mayor Craig Greenberg, who assumed office in January, expressed his confidence in Chief Gwinn-Villaroel’s abilities and her alignment with the community’s expectations. Her extensive experience in law enforcement leadership and a track record of reform were cited as reasons for her permanent appointment.

With 26 years of law enforcement experience, Chief Gwinn-Villaroel joined the Louisville Police Department as a deputy chief in 2021 after a long career with the Atlanta Police Department. She previously worked under Ms. Shields in Atlanta, who resigned in the wake of the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in 2020.

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Louisville’s police department has faced significant challenges and public scrutiny, beginning with the tragic killing of Breonna Taylor in her apartment during a no-knock warrant raid in 2020. Before this incident, the department’s relationship with the community had been fraught with tension, leading to concerns about civil rights violations.

Chief Gwinn-Villaroel prioritizes rebuilding community trust and reducing violent crime in Louisville. She acknowledges the need to improve relationships with residents and strengthen the community’s faith in law enforcement efforts.

“We understand that we’ve got to continue to work on those relationships and build upon that community trust that we’re working on every day,” Chief Gwinn-Villaroel stated during a news conference. “We are invested in making sure that we get it right.”

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