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Louisville police major at the center of chief’s suspension ‘seeking accountability’

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin
LMPD Major Shannon Lauder currently heads the department's 1st Division, which covers downtown and parts of west Louisville.

An attorney representing Louisville Metro Police Major Shannon Lauder said she’s gone public with her sexual misconduct allegations against a fellow officer because she wants accountability.

Attorney Jared Smith held a briefing with reporters outside Metro Hall on Thursday to discuss why Louisville Police Major Shannon Lauder spoke up during a May 22 meeting of LMPD command staff.

In that meeting, Lauder said that she could not work with another officer because he had “sexually harassed” and “attacked” her. Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel acknowledged Lauder’s claim, but promoted the accused officer less than a minute later. Gwinn-Villaroel has since been placed on administrative leave, pending an independent investigation into her handling of the accusations.

Smith said Lauder could have remained silent about what she experienced “as so many similarly situated females choose to do in our society.” He said he was proud of her for instead choosing “the courageous decision.”

“She’s certainly seeking accountability for what happened to her, but she’s also seeking real, long-standing change, the type of change referenced by the Department of Justice in their scathing March 8, 2023 report,” Smith said.

Smith said Lauder is taking time to process what has happened and isn’t actively attending department meetings.

Lauder is a 16-year veteran of LMPD who previously oversaw the department’s troubled Special Victims Unit. She now heads the 1st Division, which encompasses downtown and parts of west Louisville including the Portland neighborhood. It’s one of the most active divisions in the city.

At Thursday’s briefing, Smith shared some additional details about the meeting as well as a longer version of the recording Lauder made. In it, you can hear Chief Gwinn-Villaroel chastising her command staff for not meeting her expectations.

“I will not have a major who cannot get along and support another major because y’all had an issue,” Gwinn-Villaroel said. “It’s over. And if you cannot do that, turn in your stuff to me today.”

Later on in the meeting, Gwinn-Villaroel calls on each LMPD major to ask them if they have a problem working with any other department leader. It’s at that point Lauder accuses Major Brian Kuriger of sexual misconduct and Kuriger is immediately promoted.

Smith told reporters that he would have liked to see Gwinn-Villaroel pause that meeting and “think of Shannon [Lauder]” and respond “in a way that was much more human.”

Many of the questions posed by reporters during Smith’s briefing Thursday went unanswered.

He would not say whether Lauder brought her concerns to Gwinn-Villaroel prior to the meeting or whether she had ever filed a formal complaint against Kuriger. Smith also declined to expand on what Lauder meant when she said Kuriger “sexually harassed” and “attacked her.”

Asked by reporters if Lauder plans on suing the department, Smith said the option is open.

“If, at the conclusion of my investigation, the facts turn out to be actionable and it is my client’s ultimate desire to pursue a lawsuit, then I will certainly file a lawsuit on her behalf,” he said.

Lauder had already retained Smith as her legal counsel before the May 22 meeting occurred. According to Smith, Lauder hired him to investigate the events surrounding the alleged sexual misconduct.

While he would not discuss the details of his investigation, Smith said he was looking at incidents “that span the last four years of time.”

LPM News sent questions to LMPD asking if there are any ongoing investigations into Lauder’s allegations by the department's Professional Standards Unit and whether Gwinn-Villaroel knew of the accusations prior to that May 22 meeting. The department directed all questions to Mayor Craig Greenberg’s office.

Kevin Trager, Greenberg’s press secretary, said in a statement that LMPD engaged an independent investigator to look into Lauder’s claim shortly after that command staff meeting.

“Due to the sensitivity of the matter, and out of respect for the privacy of the people involved, these are the details we can provide at this time,” Trager said.

Kuriger, who Lauder’s accused of sexual misconduct, oversaw LMPD’s internal investigative agencies: the Professional Standards Unit and the Public Integrity Unit. Those agencies usually look into misconduct complaints, but doing so in this case would likely have been seen as a conflict of interest.

Greenberg announced Wednesday night that the city has contracted with attorney David Beyer who will conduct his own third-party investigation into how Gwinn-Villaroel responded to Lauder’s claim. In the meantime, she’s been suspended with pay.

LMPD Assistant Chief Paul Humphrey has been tasked with leading the department in the interim.

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

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