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Louisville police chief suspended over handling of sexual assault allegations

LMPD interim chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel sits down for an interview with WFPL's Roberto Roldan.
J. Tyler Franklin
LMPD interim chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel sits down for an interview with WFPL's Roberto Roldan.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg has placed the city’s top cop on a “temporary” suspension after audio of her promoting an officer accused of sexual misconduct was leaked to the press.

At a press conference Wednesday night, Mayor Craig Greenberg announced the hiring of an independent investigator to review Louisville Metro Police Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel’s handling of the misconduct allegation.

Greenberg told reporters that Gwinn-Villaroel's suspension is “temporary” and she will continue to be paid while the investigation moves forward. In the meantime, he’s promoted Assistant Chief Paul Humphrey to serve as acting chief. Humphrey currently heads LMPD’s Accountability and Improvement Bureau.

Greenberg said he is taking the allegation of sexual harassment and Gwinn-Villaorel’s response to it, very seriously.

“I hold myself, and all the leads of every agency that reports to me, to the highest of standards and that certainly includes LMPD,” he said.

Greenberg stressed that he will not tolerate sexual misconduct within Metro Government.

Revelations that Louisville’s police chief may have mishandled an allegation of sexual misconduct come as the city is negotiating a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. That consent decree, which will act as a roadmap for reforming the department, is the result of a months-long investigation by the DOJ that found LMPD routinely engaged in unconstitutional and discriminatory policing.

In the scathing report released last year, DOJ investigators said LMPD does not adequately investigate officers accused of sexual misconduct and domestic violence. They noted that the investigations “frequently deviate from Departmental policies and generally accepted investigative practices.”

“We also reviewed cases where administrative investigations occurred but did not address important allegations, such as reports that officers had tried to intimidate or retaliate against women for reporting sexual harassment or domestic violence,” investigators wrote.

The Greenberg administration rushed to put together a last-minute press conference Wednesday night to announce Gwinn-Villaroel’s suspension after a WAVE 3 reporter said she reached out to LMPD for comment on the situation earlier in the day. The reporter, Natalia Martinez, said she told the police department she had obtained a recording of Gwinn-Villaroel’s reaction to the allegations.

TV Station WAVE 3 broadcast that recording shortly after the press conference concluded. In it, you can hear Gwinn-Villaroel calling on each of the majors within the department to ask if there are any other commanding officers they cannot work with.

LMPD Major Shannon Lauder said she refuses to work with another major, Brian Kuriger, because “he has sexually harassed me and attacked me.”

Less than a minute later, according to the news report, Gwinn-Villaroel announced she was promoting Kuriger to the position of Lieutenant Colonel, one of the highest ranks within the department.

Speaking to Lauder, Gwinn-Villaroel said: “Major Lauder, I heard your concerns. I understand that you cannot. And so, we have to visit on the status moving forward.”

Lauder can be heard apologizing for the timing of the allegation.

“I know now is not a good time to bring it up, but I didn’t want you to say later that I didn’t bring it up,” she said. “So, sorry to bring it up in this way.”

Lauder’s attorney, Jared Smith, also provided a copy of the recording to LPM News. In an emailed statement, Smith described the audio as “deeply disturbing” and said it showed an environment that “does not feel welcoming or safe.”

“The Chief’s response to Major Lauder’s allegation paints an unsettling picture of a department lacking strong leadership and failing to prioritize the well-being of its officers,” Smith said. “We are currently looking into this matter and Major Lauder is taking time to process what occurred and explore her options.”

Kuriger, the officer Lauder accused of sexual harassment, oversaw LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit and Professional Standards Unit, which conduct internal investigations of officer shootings and misconduct. Kuriger did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to his personal and professional email addresses.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Greenberg did not provide any details about the allegations or Gwinn-Villaroel’s response. He noted that Gwinn-Villaroel was not personally being accused of sexual misconduct and said a separate investigation into Lauder’s claim was already underway.

It’s unclear when Greenberg first learned of the alleged misconduct and how Gwinn-Villaroel reacted to it. He said the city signed the contract with attorney David Beyer, the third-party investigator, on Monday.

This is not the first time Gwinn-Villaroel’s ability to lead LMPD at a critical time has been called into question. She faced criticism for giving false testimony during a civil trial late last year. At the time, Greenberg defended her actions saying she “misspoke.”

Gwinn-Villaroel also drew the ire of some residents and activists when she decided that officers whose misconduct was highlighted in the DOJ report would not face any further discipline.

This story has been updated to include additional details.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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