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Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, Louisville Metro Police Department, Breonna Taylor, Mayor Craig Greenberg

Source: LUKE SHARRETT / Getty

Black community members in Louisville say they were left in the dark when the state’s Mayor Craig Greenberg hired police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel to take over the Louisville Metro Police Department. Now, activists in the community are urging more transparency in the hiring process with hopes of forging stronger community ties with residents. 

According to the Courier-Journal two Black organizations in the city claimed that Mayor Greenberg refused to name finalists that were up for the position in December despite calls for transparency after the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation uncovered several instances where officers from the department were guilty of misconduct and unconstitutional policing. The investigation was spawned by the fatal 2020 shooting of Breonna Taylor, a young EMS worker who was killed by Louisville police during a botched raid.

According to the report, a seven-member committee was hired to assist the Mayor with the hiring process.

All of the members were required to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which banned them from sharing details about the procedure and the 19 candidates that were up for the position.

Lyndon Pryor, interim CEO of the social justice group Louisville Urban League, said community members are upset by the swift decision.

“There’s no way for me or anybody else in the public to make that judgment” on whether Gwinn-Villaroel was the best candidate,” Lyndon said. “I believe (Mayor Greenberg) has done her a disservice because there’s no way to evaluate.”

Lyndon told the Courier-Journal that he had only met with Gwinn-Villaroel on a few occasions, but the social justice advocate said that “at times, particularly in public forums,” the police chief “seemed a bit guarded with information,” especially with details surrounding the DOJ investigation. 

Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville Branch NAACP, echoed similar sentiments.“We think that transparency is necessary. It will be interesting to see how the community reacts.”

This isn’t the first time that Louisville officials have received criticism over their police hiring process. In 2021, then-Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer faced backlash for the alleged secret hire of former police chief Erika Sheilds, after she stepped down as Atlanta’s chief following the death of Rayshard Brooks.

Who is Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel?

Gwinn-Villaroel joined the Louisville Metro Police Department in 2021. She was a close mentee of Shields. The two previously worked in the Atlanta Police Department together for years, climbing the ranks of the undercover department and assisting with prostitution stings and drug busts.

Shortly after Greenberg was elected mayor in November 2022, Shields announced that she would be stepping down from her role as police chief due to “political” reasons. Two months later, Gwinn-Villaroel was sworn in on Jan. 2.

After she took over the position, the new police chief vowed to bring more transparency to Louisville’s police department. “We want to be transparent, and we want people to have a seat at the table,” she said. “The community needs to understand that we are a stable organization and that we’re working on being better every day.”

Gwinn-Villaroel has already faced several challenges since taking over the position in December. In addition to the scathing DOJ report, the former Atlanta officer was propelled into action when a mass shooter opened fire in a downtown Louisville bank on April 10, killing five people and injuring others, including one member from the department.


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