Atlanta police major joins former chief at Louisville, Kentucky department

Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel had worked with former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields for decades

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

An Atlanta police major with nearly 24 years on the force is leaving for Louisville, Kentucky to serve as second-in-command under Atlanta’s former police chief.

Maj. Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, the training commander for Atlanta’s police academy, will join Chief Erika Shields in the Louisville Metro Police Department. Her last day is Feb. 8.

Shields stepped aside as Atlanta’s chief last year following the deadly police shooting of Rayshard Brooks. Rodney Bryant has been Atlanta’s interim police chief since then. Shields had remained a city employee, serving as deputy chief information officer, until being hired to lead Louisville’s police force in January.

In a news release naming Gwinn-Villaroel as her deputy chief, Shields said the two worked together in Atlanta for more than two decades.

“She is no stranger to police work and has held numerous, wide ranging, and formidable assignments at APD over the years,” Shields said. “She’s a trusted and respected leader in building partnerships with diverse communities, which is exactly what this department needs to advance LMPD’s policing of this city toward a modern, progressive, equitable, respected law enforcement effort.”

Gwinn-Villaroel’s departure comes as city leaders look for ways to retain officers following Atlanta’s deadliest year in more than two decades. Atlanta police investigated 157 homicides in 2020, a 58% increase from the previous year. More than 200 officers either retired or resigned last year. Many left after former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s decision to file criminal charges against several officers involved in violent incidents over the summer.

In Louisville, Gwinn-Villaroel joins a department roiled in controversy following the police shooting of Breonna Taylor last year.

The 26-year-old African American ER technician was killed in March after three Louisville Metro cops, having obtained a no-knock warrant, entered her home as part of an illegal drug investigation. Taylor’s boyfriend, who said he thought the police were intruders, fired one warning shot. The officers responded with a flurry of bullets, six of which struck Taylor. There was no evidence she was involved in any criminal behavior.

An Atlanta native, Gwinn-Villaroel had been with APD since 1997, according to her bio on the department’s website. She began as a beat officer in southeast Atlanta’s Zone 3 before working her way through the ranks.

She spent eight years as a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division before being promoted to sergeant in 2010. In that role, she served as administrative sergeant for the Atlanta Police Academy and later worked in human resources. In 2017, Gwinn-Villaroel was promoted to lieutenant and assigned as the watch commander for Zone 6, in southeast Atlanta. She also served as the commander for the Tactical Crime Analysis Unit.

Two years later, she was promoted to captain and named assistant commander of APD’s Major Crimes Section. She became a major in January 2020 and is commander of the training academy. Atlanta police have not named anyone to replace her, a department spokesman said Tuesday.

Outside of her police career, the wife and mother is an ordained pastor and founding member of Unstoppable Praise Ministry.

“I welcome Deputy Chief Gwinn-Villaroel and look forward to beginning work with her in advancing our vision for reform and progress,” Shields said.

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