Greenberg announces LMPD second-in-command will become interim chief
Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, who’s currently second-in-command at the Louisville Metro Police Department, will temporarily take over the top leadership role when Chief Erika Shields resigns next month.
Mayor-elect Craig Greenberg announced Gwinn-Villaroel as his pick for interim chief at a press conference Friday afternoon. Gwinn-Villaroel has served as deputy chief of LMPD since Feb. 2021, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department. She previously worked at the Atlanta Police Department for 24 years, starting as a beat officer and working her way up to captain.
Speaking to reporters, Gwinn-Villaroel said one of her main priorities will be restoring trust between the community and its law enforcement officers.
“There has been some trauma, as we all know, that has taken place in this city,” she said. “We want to rebuild those relationships. We need to rebuild those relationships.”
Gwinn-Villaroel vowed to meet with community members and have “tough conversations,” with the goal of being transparent.
The police killing of Breonna Taylor in March 2020 and the months of protests that followed — in which saw demonstrators and police were frequently at odds — further strained the relationship between LMPD and some residents, particularly Black residents. The U.S. Department of Justice has also been investigating LMPD for more than a year, looking at whether the city had a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing and violating residents’ constitutional rights.
When Shields officially leaves LMPD on Jan. 2, Gwinn-Villaroel will become the fifth person to head the department in less than three years.
In addition to the lack of community trust, LMPD has suffered from staffing shortages in recent years. LMPD’s homicide clearance rates fell well below the national average in 2021, and the department refused to respond to non-injury roadway collisions long after most city services returned to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greenberg said Friday that LMPD is short nearly 300 officers and he’s spoken with Gwinn-Villaroel about how to fill those positions as soon as possible.
“We’ve talked about really just renewing and strengthening the commitment that LMPD has already shown to try to work towards [better recruitment and retention],” Greenberg said.
Gwinn-Villaroel is a mother and an ordained pastor, on top of being a cop. In Atlanta, she was a founding member of the church Unstoppable Praise Ministries.
She told reporters that her nephew was recently murdered in Atlanta, a victim of gun violence. Gwinn-Villaroel said her grief has only emboldened her commitment to cracking down on violence here in Louisville.
“I’ve always had the passion and the drive to make sure that I took care of families by doing my job,” she said. “But now it has touched me personally where now I’m truly, truly committed to making sure that the pain I’ve experienced, that no other family has to go down this road.”
It’s unclear how long she will lead the department, with Greenberg saying that he plans to contract with a national search firm to find a permanent replacement for Shields.