A Black woman will serve as the interim chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department – becoming the first to hold the position – as protests rock the city following the death of Breonna Taylor during a raid.
Yvette Gentry was appointed to the post by Mayor Greg Fischer on Monday. She succeeds Interim Chief Robert Schroeder, who is retiring after less than three months in the position.
Longtime Chief Steve Conrad was fired earlier this year after the mayor revealed officers didn't have body cameras turned on during a fatal police shooting of the owner of a popular West End eatery.
The department has faced intense scrutiny after officers carrying out a no-knock search warrant during a narcotics investigation fired over 20 rounds into Taylor's home. She was struck eight times and killed.
Her death is under investigation by the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Authorities have said the officers fired back after Taylor's boyfriend started shooting at them.
Gentry, who addressed a crowd of protesters after Monday's announcement, said she hoped to mend relationships between police and the Black community.
“I’m not here just to help you unboard your beautiful buildings downtown,” she 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.”
She said the past four months have been tough on police officers as well as on protesters, adding that it’s tough “seeing things just feel so hopeless.”
“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,” Gentry said. “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.”
Gentry told The Courier-Journal in an interview that she doesn’t want to be the permanent police chief – and didn’t apply for the position.
“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,” said Gentry, a Louisville native. “So, even though I wasn’t interested in the full-time job, I realized that somebody has to stand in the gap.”
Fischer is expected to name a new leader by the end of 2020.
In an interview, Gentry acknowledged that improving community relations, reducing crime and boosting officer morale simultaneously won’t be an easy task, but said she's in as “good a position as anyone could be.”
“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 said. “People are just so far apart. And maybe, I can be in the middle and I can bridge it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.