The Louisville Police Department has officially named its first Black woman Chief of Police. Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel’s appointment comes after the department faced scrutiny for years following the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in 2020.

Gwinn-Villaroel was selected out of 20 candidates from across the nation. Each potential candidate was interviewed by an advisory committee made up of elected officials, nonprofit leaders, and affected residents. 

Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel’s New Role

In a press conference, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg officially announced Gwinn-Villaroel’s new role. She had been serving as the department’s interim chief since January, under former Chief Erika Shields.

“This is a challenging job,” Greenberg said. “And over the last few months, it’s become very clear that the best person to do this work is already on the job.”

Gwinn-Villaroel came to Louisville Metro Police after serving 24 years with Atlanta’s police department. During her time as the interim chief in the past six months, she launched a nonfatal shooting unit and expanded a “Crisis Call Diversion Program.”

“I want to acknowledge you (Greenberg) for taking a leap of faith on this individual – me – that came here that you knew nothing about, but you took a leap of faith to allow me to lead, and you saw my leadership abilities, and you said, ‘Go forth, Jackie,'” she said.

She also shared that it was her calling to serve and protect those who cannot take care of themselves.

Gwinn-Villaroel takes on the job at a time when the force faces challenges in recruiting new officers. With about 250 job openings, the department has been struggling with community trust. The U.S. Justice Department announced in March that it had found Louisville police engaged in a pattern of violating constitutional rights and discrimination. Among other issues, the report found the police department has used excessive force and discriminated against Black residents.