1st Black Woman To Lead The Louisville Police Suspended Over Handling Of Officer’s Sexual Harassment Claims

Louisville’s police chief, Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, has been suspended amid allegations that she mishandled sexual harassment claims involving her officers

Mayor Craig Greenberg made the surprise announcement on June 12 after Gwinn-Villaroel had only held the position for less than a year. While Greenberg said in a statement that the chief wasn’t involved in the allegations herself, he said such issues would not be tolerated. “I will not tolerate sexual misconduct in Louisville Metro Government, including in LMPD,” Greenberg said during a press conference. 

“Rules and policies are in place for a reason, and they need to be followed.”

The allegations came to light after Gwinn-Villaroel was accused of promoting one of her majors to the top three in command just minutes after a sexual harassment allegation was made against him. According to Wave 3, she decided to promote Major Brian Kuriger during the same meeting where his colleague, Major Shannon Lauder, made an accusation.

The publication retrieved a recording of the meeting where the chief was allegedly heard asking Lauder if there was anyone specifically that she could not work with. “I’m going to put it on record today,” Gwinn-Villaroel said. “I’m going to ask, is there anybody within this command staff or executive staff you can’t work with?”

Lauder responded by saying, “I cannot work with Major Kuriger. He has sexually harassed me and attacked me, and I cannot work with him.” 

After 21 seconds of silence, the chief continues to roll call other majors before announcing Kuriger’s promotion. “Your next Lt. Col. will be Brian Kuriger,” Villaroel says. She continues to tell Lauder that her concerns were heard, followed by the major allegedly telling the chief, “I know that right now is not a good time to bring it up…” but she didn’t want you to say that…later, that I didn’t bring it up.” 

“So, sorry it had to come out in this way.”

The Louisville Police Department has had its share of problems in leadership after Breonna Taylor’s shooting by officers made national headlines in 2020. Gwinn-Villaroel is the third full-time chief since Taylor’s death. She came from the Atlanta Police Department in 2021 with former Chief Erika Shields, who hired her as a deputy chief. 

Greenberg has praised her for how she handled a mass shooting that took the lives of five people at a bank in 2023. Officers quickly responded, fatally shooting the gunman just minutes after a 911 call. However, the mayor has growing concerns about how the sexual harassment claims have been handled, especially after being a target of criticism by the U.S. Justice Department. 

After Taylor’s death, the agency conducted a wide-ranging investigation and found Louisville officers often engaged in patterns of discrimination and violation of constitutional rights. Its report revealed it “identified deficiencies” in the department’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct or domestic violence among officers.

Lauder’s attorney, Jared Smith, released a statement saying, “What we hear LMPD Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel say in this recording is deeply concerning as her tone toward her command staff is, in my opinion, aggressive and threatening,” he said. 

“The chief’s response to Major Lauder’s allegation paints an unsettling picture of a department lacking strong leadership and failing to prioritize the well-being of its officers.”

Greenberg named Deputy Chief Paul Humphrey as acting chief during the investigation, while an LMPD spokesperson clarified that Kuriger’s promotion was not official.

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