LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Yvette Gentry, a former LMPD deputy chief, will take over as interim chief October 1, as Robert Schroeder announces his retirement.
Gentry is the first black woman ever to take the reins of the department, making a promise not of perfection, but of honesty on Monday.
Over 20 years moving up the ranks at LMPD before retiring, combined with her social service work in recent years, have many saying she’s the perfect fit.
“She is a capable and proven leader,” Schroeder said. “She is the right person at the right time to move this police department forward until a new police chief is selected.”
“I am a leader and I know how to lead. I know this city. I love this city,” Gentry said during the announcement Monday.
That leadership, both in and out of LMPD, is what former Louisville police officer and current Metro Council President, David James, thinks can heal a fractured police force.
“I think she will help stabilize things, work with the community and work with the officers,” James said.
“It’s a hard job, but I think she can bring the community, in a way that no one else could.” Sadiqa Reynolds, President of the Louisville Urban League said.
Reynolds has known Gentry since she was a young cop and Reynolds was a public defender, more than 20 years ago.
“She would give the shirt off her back even back in the day,” Reynolds said. “She would arrest someone, and then take food to their grandmother. Whatever role she’s been in, she’s always been willing to do her job, and she’s never had an easy job.”
A year after retiring from the force in 2014, Gentry was named director of Youth Detention and Prevention Services, under Mayor Greg Fischer who soon named her chief of community building.
After stepping away from that office in 2017, she later became a project director at Metro United Way.
Reynolds says this new appointment is not a silver-bullet, however.
“It’s not going to fix everything,” Reynolds said. “I think she [Gentry] said it best. This is about systems. So, there are lots of systems that have to be changed, but also think the person who sits at the head of the table has power. She will make a difference in the time that she’s there.”
Gentry has already pointed to the truth as the only way out of the darkness this city has fallen into.
“We certainly need justice in this case, but this is this is another good step forward and we just have to keep making these steps forward,” Reynolds said. “That means allowing the truth to be revealed, and whatever we have to deal with because of that truth, we all are going to have to deal with.”
Reynolds said she’s looking forward to having someone in the chief’s seat who won’t let the mayor micro-manage the department. However, she said Gentry will need the support of her officers, not just the community.
“She’s a black woman in the middle of a race storm in our city and she’s stepping into a leadership role, where you’re trying to help make space for people in rooms where you can barely breathe yourself,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds has been encouraging Gentry to take the position for years, saying she should have been chosen back when former chief Steve Conrad was hired in 2012.
“Yvette Gentry is smart, she is caring, she is what she appears to be,” Reynolds said. “She is truthful, she is courageous, she will tell you exactly how she feels, she will ever make every attempt always to do the right thing. She loves her family. She is a mother to black sons. She is a wife to a black man. She knows what it is to be black in this community. She has been a police officer her entire career, really. She understands what it is to be a police officer in this community and in this country. She knows policing inside and out, so, I think we are getting the benefit of a very well-seasoned human being in this role and I am proud of her for stepping up. I don’t think the mayor hired her, I think the community drafted her and he simply didn’t have a choice.”
Gentry said she doesn’t want to be the chief permanently, only signing a six-month contract, taking a break from her position as a project director at Metro United Way.