*The daily news podcast The Journal., from The Wall Street Journal and Gimlet (a Spotify company), is sharing with you today’s exclusive interview with Yvette Gentry, Louisville’s new police chief.
In the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death and another fatal police shooting of a Black man, the police chief was fired. Then, his successor stepped down, and Gentry has stepped in, on an interim basis, as the city’s first Black woman to lead the force.
With the first presidential debate happening tonight, many anticipate the topic of the protests that continue to roil Louisville over the killing of Breonna Taylor to be discussed.
Below are specific highlight quotes below from Gentry’s interview on The Journal Podcast with host Kate Linebaugh.
- On why she took the job: “I took it because I really felt like I was a person with my previous experience. And then just my life experience that could come in here and get us started towards a path of truth, the reconciliation. I really felt that in my period I prayed over it and I and I decided to step up. And I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t want to do that. It’s a very difficult time to try to lead. And I absolutely love the great life of comfort. But I feel like sometimes you have to give up your own comfort to help other people find theirs. And so that is why I’m here.”
- On her past experience in the Police Dept: “I grew up in this police department. You know, I’m 50 years old now, but I started working here when I was 20 years old. And when I was on a police department, black females were one percent of this agency. And so more times than not, I was in a room by myself with nobody who ever looked like me in a room. And so sometimes my experiences and my voice was neutralized and a whole lot of ways. And then when I did speak up, I felt like that there were systemic ways to kind of try to put me back in my place, just to be honest with you, like, you know, taking money from the budget, things that you can always point to. And so with that being my experience, I understand that both as an officer, as a woman and just as a person and as chief.
- On the concrete steps she’s taking to enact police reform: “There is a top-to-bottom review of our police department, there are already some agreed upon reforms, so I’m not at all trying to say that we don’t have work to do. I’m just saying that, you know, some of the voices have not been heard yet. So while they are reforms that are going to be forced upon us from other people that are certainly going to be work that we decide to do on our own and kind of create a shared vision. So we absolutely have to look at our rules and standards. But I still believe the leap. You know, we can change all the tools in the world, but we have to make sure that we’re selecting the right people and that the system allows for good people to have a voice to get through when they have to be able to trust it, just like we need our community to trust our police department. We need our police officers to trust our command staff and vice versa.
- On the order to release the recordings of the Grand Jury session in the Breonna Taylor case: “I‘m interested to see what the scope of what he provided. But my only concern is I think after all of this cry for justice, and I agree that we need to get justice and get to the bottom of it, I just wouldn’t want anything released that would prevent us from actually having a trial at some point and figuring out what really happened in the proper setting. So I understand, you know, trying to balance people’s need to know. But how do we put that in a manner that we start from start to finish and give people who have been asking what happened in this case the context that they need?”
- On how she can ensure that cops with a bad job history aren’t rehired again: “We have to have the right people. And so I think one of the reforms that was already agreed upon is that even if they leave under the suspicion of investigation, that we will certainly make sure that that is noted. But one thing I will tell you from experience is people because of their own policies, and I’m sure I don’t know where you work, but they have this policy of if somebody leaves, they can’t tell any details about that person’s employment. And when I used to do background investigations, that is what I often found. And so that’s the kind of stuff that we have to look at across our system, even if they’re coming from another police department or just another, you know, another profession. People being able to be honest and look at those H.R. policies and say that because that is what I found. I never had a police department say to me, don’t you know I have police departments? They told me before. Off the record, don’t hire this person.
And I never would push that person forward, but I never had them give us the documentation, you know? And so that’s the part that we need to change. Even though our numbers are down in the pool that we’re pulling from is pretty shallow pool of people who want to be the police right now. So that’s the challenge. But we certainly can’t take the wrong people regardless of it all.”
- On her passion for addressing systemic racism: “I think when he [Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer] was saying that and I’ve been very clear to him, I won’t make it a single struggle issue because I realize that, you know, even all my years, even when I was a deputy chief and, you know, we tell people that our kids that if they go to school and they get a good education and they do well, that they can, you know, work anywhere and live anywhere. And this city did not show up for my own children when I did all of that and they did those things.
And so I know the system’s don’t actually always work for black people and poor people.
That’s why I came back. And I’m committed to making sure that we look across the board and make sure that there really is a pathway for people. I think that’s why you see so many people angry. They’re hearing about these opportunities that they don’t really and have never had access to. And that’s not acceptable for us if we want to consider ourself a world class city.”
- On being the first Black Chief of Police: “First female too. I think females just bring a different perspective. We’re not going to overpower our way. I never could on the street. Right when I first started his job, I was about 100 pounds. So I learned the value of effective communication and talking to people to get them to work with me. So I bring that in. That’s something that a lot of times we’re reluctant to do is just tell people the truth about our own experiences. Like for me to come in here and say there’s no such thing as systemic racism when I had it too. In 2005, I had one day of joy because I worked really hard to study for the lieutenant’s exam. And I came out number two, and I remember seeing the list come out and being so happy. And then just hours after it, it was a lot of negativity by people, you know, saying how did she get to be number two?
You know, she and she you know, she had a cheat and she had to do all of this stuff.
And I’m sitting here saying I work beside you all for so long. And I worked so hard and I took the tough job. And now you’re telling me I’m not good enough to be number two. Right. So, those experiences that I have. I have to speak about that so that the person at those saying that there are some things that are not fair, that I can look at them in their eye and say, yes, you’re right.”
- On balancing trust of officers and making significant reforms and changes: “I don’t think it’s a balancing act. I think there’s as many police officers as we need that want to go forward and do things that have the integrity that it’s going to take to do it. I think we just speak truthfully and we do things the right way and it takes care of itself. I don’t I don’t see this line in the sand where I have to balance. I think I have to do what’s right when it’s not popular. And I think at the end of the day, the right people will respect that.”
The Journal. is a daily podcast about money, business and power, hosted by veteran Wall Street Journal reporters Kate Linebaugh and Ryan Knutson.
You can listen to the full episode above at top of page via the Spotify player.