LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - She took the job at a difficult time in Louisville, and now Interim Chief Yvette Gentry prepares to leave the Louisville Metro Police Department one more time.
Gentry’s last day will be Monday, January 18. Before she walks out the door, Gentry plans to welcome a new group of retired officers signing up for another round.
Erika Shields, who resigned from Atlanta in June, will begin Tuesday, January 19.
“Trying to drink from a water hose was difficult for me in a city that I know, with people that I know,” Gentry said. “It’s going to be even more of a challenge for her moving to a city where she doesn’t have those relationships, so it’s gonna be tough. But, you know, we gotta do what we gotta do to make it work.”
Gentry agreed to take the position after Robert Schroeder, the interim chief at the time, decided to retire before a permanent hire was made.
In a one-on-one interview with WAVE 3 News, Gentry spoke about what it was like to step in as commander during when the city was on fire, at times, literally.
“I saw a community that I love and a department that I love so fractured, and I was like I know how both of them feel.”
The community was wrestling with sentiments of racial injustice surrounding the Breonna Taylor case. Rioting affected the downtown and other parts of the city.
“I’m sitting there watching them lean up against the building,” Gentry said of the officers. “I was like, this job, it makes no sense for me to come here,” Gentry said of questioning taking on the role during such tumultuous times.
Gentry hopes that Shields will soon understand what’s lead Louisville to the conditions it’s in.
“This is a different climate that she’s coming from and I want her to know that,” Gentry said.
Gentry’s relationship with Mayor Greg Fischer has been contentious, something she hope the new chief won’t experience.
“You can’t manage how it’s done,” Gentry said. “You picked her, you believe in her, let chief shields do what you believe she is capable of doing.”
Going forward, Gentry hopes the department and the city will be up front about critical incidents.
“Things are going to happen,” Gentry said, “people just expect, they don’t expect perfection from police officers, they don’t but they expect honesty from the leadership.”
“Do you think they’ve received it so far?” WAVE 3 News asked. “I mean everybody makes mistakes, and makes failures, like I said there’s been communication failures, that made things worse than they needed to be.”
Gentry hopes that hate will be replaced by a listening ear.
“At the end of it, whatever your initial thoughts were, in order for justice to really take place, you have to be open that there’s fats out there, there’s information out there and you might have been wrong. And that’s for police and community, and that’s the sweet spot. That’s where we get to give ourselves and give each other due process.”
Gentry also shared her concerns for streak of violent crime that has affected hundreds of lives, as homicides and shootings have gone up by 100%. The increase in violence, Gentry said, is unacceptable and should be front and center. An example Gentry cited was that ShotSpotter recorded 9,000 shots fired on New Year’s Eve.
“That’s the reality we’re facing so we have to have a confident police department to go out there and address those issues, that’s our reality. Eighty kids shot? We’ve got to be able to put some ego’s aside too and look at what role did closing the detention center play.”
Gentry talked about how the court system need to be held responsible too, and how some of those arrested for the shootings are out within a couple of hours.
Gentry plans on staying active in the community while supporting officers and at the same time, equity and justice for everyone.