Louisville Is Clamoring for Police Reform. Can an Interim Chief Deliver?

Seeing their need, Chief Gentry raised enough money to buy dozens of air-conditioning units. Along with other officers, she installed them. It would not be an exaggeration to say her project possibly saved lives; more than 250 people in the Midwest died from the heat that summer.

“Policing is a privileged opportunity to just really dig deep into how you help people,” Chief Gentry said. “Very few people get the privilege to actually peek behind the curtains, so it’s what you do with that information, you know, what are you going to do with it now that you see it?”

Over the next two decades, Chief Gentry moved up the ranks, becoming deputy chief in 2011 and retiring from the force in January 2015.

Then, this summer, she was asked to return. Some friends told her not to. Her husband was skeptical as well, worrying for her health — Chief Gentry was declared free of breast cancer in 2016.

During her swearing-in ceremony, Mayor Greg Fischer described the uneasiness in Louisville as “a challenging time unlike anything any of us have ever seen.”

One night in October, at the suburban home of the state’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, about four dozen demonstrators gathered to protest his office’s investigation into Ms. Taylor’s death. Police officers were there too: They formed a line and began to march, urging the crowd to get off the street. Reluctantly, the protesters moved back, in a scene that has become typical in 2020.

Asked about Chief Gentry’s ability to improve conditions in Louisville, the demonstrators expressed disagreement. Travis Nagdy, 21, said he would wait and see, though he was skeptical that she could solve the problems that led to the protests in the first place. About a month later, on Nov. 23, Mr. Nagdy was shot and killed in Louisville. The police have made no arrests in the case.

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