6 chiefs, 4 years: A tumultuous timeline of recent Louisville Metro Police leadership

Four years of scandal have left a visible mark on Louisville Metro Police's highest office.

The department is currently on its sixth chief in four years, with an interim in place amid an investigation into the current chief's handling of a sexual harassment claim by a major. The turnover in leadership has been consistent as the department continues to work to move forward from the protests of 2020 and ongoing negotiations toward a consent decree.

Before four years of turnover, though, came eight years under one chief. Here's a look at how the department got to this point:

Steve Conrad

March 2012 to June 2020

Former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, alongside then-U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and former Mayor Greg Fischer, speaks at a March 2019 event.
Former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, alongside then-U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and former Mayor Greg Fischer, speaks at a March 2019 event.

For eight years, Steve Conrad represented stability in LMPD. But late in his tenure, cracks in the foundation were clear.

The former Louisville police officer was rehired by then-Mayor Greg Fischer to lead the department in 2012 after a stint as chief of police in Glendale, Arizona. A key goal when he took the job was to spend more time with beat officers and "make Louisville the safest city in America," he said at the time.

By May 2020, though, he had "weathered more storms than a Maine lighthouse," Courier Journal reporters wrote. His tenure was marred by a sex abuse scandal in LMPD's youth Explorer program, which ended with two former officers in prison and a third on probation, along with a number of pricey lawsuits and a homicide rate that skyrocketed in 2016.

The final blow, though, came during the fallout of the police killing of Breonna Taylor, which occurred on his watch. Amid criticism, he announced in May 2020 he would retire at the end of June, but was ultimately fired when it was determined law enforcement officials who shot and killed barbecue stand owner David McAtee did not have body cameras turned on during the shooting.

Robert Schroeder

June 2020 to September 2020

Then-interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder speaks at a press conference in September 2020, toward the end of his four months in the role.
Then-interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder speaks at a press conference in September 2020, toward the end of his four months in the role.

Conrad was replaced in the interim by Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder, a Louisville police veteran who'd been in the department since 1997. He took over at a critical point, at the height of the protests over Taylor's killing and the police killings of other Black Americans across the U.S.

Schroeder led the department through the tumultuous summer of 2020 — he once testified he'd worked for 48 hours off 10 minutes of sleep at times — and made the decision to fire Brett Hankison, one of three LMPD officers who fired their weapons on the night Taylor was killed. Hankison was later found not guilty on wanton endangerment charges stemming from that night, and a federal trial ended with a hung jury last year.

Schroeder retired in September 2020. He's now chief of the Lyndon Police Department in Louisville.

Yvette Gentry

October 2020 to January 2021

Then-interim LMPD Chief Yvette Gentry speaks to a Courier Journal reporter during her first week in the role.
Then-interim LMPD Chief Yvette Gentry speaks to a Courier Journal reporter during her first week in the role.

Schroeder was replaced by another interim chief with deep Louisville roots — Yvette Gentry, a former LMPD deputy chief who retired in 2014 but came back to briefly lead the department.

Gentry, the first woman to lead the department, had a short tenure but left a mark. She fired two officers who played key roles in the raid at Taylor's apartment — Joshua Jaynes, who obtained the search warrant and has since been federally charged with lying on the warrant, and Myles Cosgrove, who fired the fatal shot in March 2020.

A permanent police chief was hired in January 2021. Gentry now serves as LDG Development's director of resident and community safety. LDG is an affordable housing firm with a presence in Kentucky and several other states.

Erika Shields

January 2021 to January 2023

Then-LMPD Chief Erika Shields speaks at a Louisville Metro Council meeting in October 2021, her first year as the department's leader.
Then-LMPD Chief Erika Shields speaks at a Louisville Metro Council meeting in October 2021, her first year as the department's leader.

Erika Shields, the former chief of the Atlanta Police Department who stepped down in June 2020 following the controversial police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, was next to lead LMPD.

Shields served as police chief during the final two years of Fischer's time in office and in the aftermath of the 2020 protests. Homicides and shootings dropped during her final year in the role, but the department continued to struggle with a significant officer shortage.

Shields was leading the department at the start of the federal investigation into LMPD's "Slushygate" scandal, in which several officers were found to have filmed each other throwing drinks from their vehicles at pedestrians, usually in Louisville's West End, in 2018 and 2019. Two officers were later sent to prison for their role in the assaults, while four others were suspended.

More coverage: How a group of LMPD officers went from 'elite unit' to dousing pedestrians with drinks

Shields resigned after current Mayor Craig Greenberg won office at the start of 2023, later saying she was forced to step down due to "political reasons." She was hired last summer by InVeris, which provides training tools for law enforcement agencies.

Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel

January 2023 to June 2024 (currently on administrative leave)

Alongside Mayor Craig Greenberg, LMPD Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel speaks at a July 2023 press conference announcing her interim tag would be removed.
Alongside Mayor Craig Greenberg, LMPD Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel speaks at a July 2023 press conference announcing her interim tag would be removed.

Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, who followed Shields from Atlanta to join LMPD, was named interim chief after Shields left the department and became the permanent chief in July 2023 following a national search.

Her time in the role, which came as the city and federal government work toward a consent decree, has been controversial. Gwinn-Villaroel gave false testimony at a civil trial last November when questioned about whether she was wearing a body camera following a 2021 police chase and responded "Discipline myself?" when asked if she would face punishment.

The U.S. Department of Justice's investigation into civil rights violations by Louisville Metro and its police department from 2016 to 2020 was also released while she was heading LMPD — during that civil trial, according to WDRB, she repeatedly referenced the report's scathing findings as "allegations," though many city leaders have accepted the findings as accurate.

More on the report: LMPD's word vs. the DOJ: How Louisville police responded to incidents in feds' report

Then, The Courier Journal found she did not tell city officials she had previously been suspended for lying during her time with Atlanta Police after being caught on camera trying to obtain police files on a drug-trafficking investigation involving a relative. Greenberg stood by Gwinn-Villaroel but admitted the incident "did not come up during the interview process."

LMPD also faced international criticism last month when top-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, a felony, after he attempted to drive around security to enter Valhalla Golf Club. All charges were later dropped.

Gwinn-Villaroel has remained in charge of the department into June, but her status is currently in question. Last week, Greenberg announced he was suspending the chief over her handling of a workplace sexual harassment allegation.

Gwinn-Villaroel has not been fired, but is currently on administrative leave. Greenberg said separate independent investigations are taking place into the allegation and into her handling of the claim.

Paul Humphrey

June 2024 to present

LMPD Interim Chief Paul Humphrey speaks on his upcoming role as interim chief on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.
LMPD Interim Chief Paul Humphrey speaks on his upcoming role as interim chief on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

At his press conference announcing the suspension, Greenberg said longtime LMPD veteran Paul Humphrey, a deputy chief, would lead the department in the interim.

Humphrey joined LMPD in 2006 and has led the department's SWAT team as well as recruitment and training operations during his career. He was a visible presence during the 2020 protests and in the aftermath of the 2023 mass shooting at Old National Bank in downtown Louisville.

“I’m committed to moving the department forward at this time,” Humphrey said at last week's press conference. “You deserve the best from your leadership, and I will ensure we will provide that.”

Reach Lucas Aulbach at laulbach@courier-journal.com.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville Metro Police timeline of 6 chiefs in 4 years.

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