City officials announced Monday that Robert Schroeder, the interim chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department, is retiring from the force on October 1. He will be replaced by Yvette Gentry, a former deputy chief of police who currently works in the nonprofit sector. Gentry will be the first Black woman to lead LMPD in the department’s history, taking over at a time when the city is facing pressure for police accountability and racial justice.
Schroeder is one of two Metro officials subpoenaed last month by the Metro Council’s government oversight committee as part of its investigation into Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration related to the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, as well as the response to ongoing racial justice protests that followed that incident. A judge granted a temporary restraining order last month after city officials sued the council to delay open testimony in that investigation.
It is unclear whether a council subpoena could apply to a former government employee.
He stepped into the role on June 1, after Fischer fired then-Chief Steve Conrad, during whose eight-year tenure the department weathered many scandals. Fischer removed Conrad after learning officers who participated in an operation with National Guard members that left West End barbecue chef David McAtee dead did not capture body camera footage of the incident.
Fischer thanked Schroeder for his service during a news conference announcing the transition Monday. He said the chief would focus on his family, health and completing a doctorate.
“When he’s ready, Rob Schroeder will make some American city an outstanding chief of police,” Fischer said at the news conference.
Schroeder welcomed Gentry to the position, saying the department would be in good hands.
“I’ve known Yvette Gentry my entire policing career. She is a capable and proven leader,” he said. “She is the right person at the right time to move this police department forward until a new police chief is selected.”
Schroeder became a Louisville police officer in 1997, and served as assistant chief of police before stepping in as interim chief.
Metro Council members who have been critical of the police’s reaction to protesters initiated an investigation into those actions and more, but Schroeder and public safety chief Amy Hess refused to testify in open session under oath in August, citing a federal civil rights lawsuit that names him as a defendant.
Metro Government sued council over subpoenas issued after that incident; the matter of whether Schroeder and Hess must testify in public as part of the investigation is expected to be decided soon by judge Audra Eckerle. Her assistant did not immediately respond to a request for an update on when she may issue that decision.
Brent Ackerson (D-26), who is chair of the council committee running the investigation into the Fischer administration, said last month he heard Schroeder may leave the department to avoid having to testify openly.
“Personally, I’m concerned with all the delays that are taking place. Chief was supposed to testify already,” Ackerson said. “My concern is… potentially, there are rumors out there that Chief might be resigning soon and thus maybe we won’t have an opportunity to bring him before the committee.”
He said the question of whether the committee has the power to compel a former Metro employee, which Schroeder will become next month, to testify would have to be decided by a judge.
In an email, Fischer spokeswoman Jean Porter said Schroeder’s retirement had nothing to do with the council investigation.
Councilman Anthony Piagentini (R-19), vice chair of the oversight committee, responded in a tweet to the Fischer team’s decision to skip questions about that issue during the news conference, writing, “This is another deliberate attempt to block any legitimate investigation into this Administration. When Chief Schroeder leaves LMPD it will stop our ability to subpoena him in front of Government Accountability.”
Piagentini said in a separate tweet that he wished Schroeder well, and that his criticism is not about him but “about a Mayor that has lost all control of his police department.”
Gentry Returns To Metro Government
Three years after leaving the Fischer administration, Gentry is returning to take over the police department.
She acknowledged during the news conference that protesters are tired after more than 100 days of demonstrations, and tired of feeling hopeless. She said this summer has been tough on police officers too.
“I think our city is at a point of reckoning, that only truth can bring us out of,” Gentry said. “Only truth can take away darkness.”
She spoke passionately about racism she and her family have endured. And she promised honestly, not perfection, in this temporary role.
“When we’re wrong, I must stand here like a woman, a grown woman, and tell you we made a mistake,” Gentry said. “And when we’re right, and I believe we’re right, I will stand here and say we’re right, even when it’s not popular.”
She asked others to work with her even if they disagree with her, saying, “Get involved and do your part.”
Earlier this summer, Gentry criticized Fischer’s response to calls for racial justice, saying he only responded to external pressure from protests and advocacy groups.
She is currently executive director of the Rajon Rondo Foundation and project director for Black Male Achievement for Metro United Way.
She retired in 2014. Fischer brought her back as director of Louisville Metro Youth Detention Services in March 2015.
He then named her Chief of Community Building in September, six months after she took the youth detention services position.
Gentry left the community building role after about two years. Fischer’s office said in a news release she was “leaving to focus on her health.” She joined Metro United Way the next month, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Metro Council president David James (D-6) was a longtime LMPD officer.
“I’m looking forward to new leadership at LMPD and I wish Interim Chief Gentry the very best,” he told WFPL in a text message.
River City FOP president Ryan Nichols questioned how Gentry would be able to operate under the Fischer administration.
“She has a lot of strong ties in the community and a good outlook on policing,” he said in a text message. “She still works for the same mayor, so not sure what amount of autonomy she will have.”
Search For A Permanent Chief
The city is in the process of hiring a permanent police chief. The window for accepting applications closed August 31. Fischer said Monday more than 20 people applied.
Louisville officials said in early August they are conducting a national search using a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. called the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Public safety chief Hess said last month it will take four to five months to get through the process of receiving a list of candidates from PERF, then interviewing them and selecting one.
Jacob Ryan contributed to this story.
This story has been updated to include remarks Mayor Greg Fischer and Yvette Gentry made at Monday afternoon’s press conference, and to add reaction from Councilman Anthony Piagentini.