LMPD’s new chief comes to Louisville following 20+ year law enforcement career in Atlanta
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A 20-year veteran and former Atlanta police chief will become Louisville’s next police chief, WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters have learned.
Erika Shields will soon be taking over from Louisville Metro Police Department Interim Chief Yvette Gentry, who agreed to take the job for a few months during tumultuous times and the search for a new chief.
Shields was with the Atlanta Police Department for 20 years and became chief in December of 2016. She is openly gay and became Atlanta’s second female police chief.
After a controversial fatal officer-involved shooting incident, she resigned in June 2020.
“I am genuinely sorry, this is not who we are. This is not what we are about,” Shields told Atlanta media at the time after the death of Rayshard Brooks, 27.
Brooks was being investigated for a possible DUI at a Wendy’s when he grabbed an officer’s taser, according to a video that captured some of the moments. In the video, there is a struggle and an officer can be heard telling him to let go of his taser before Brooks is able to pull it away from him.
Officer Garrett Rolfe fired, hitting Brooks three times. Critics of the incident claim Brooks was running away, while Rolfe contends their lives would have been in danger if Brooks had paralyzed them with a taser. Rolfe was later charged with murder.
The incident led to protests, rioting and the burning of the Wendy’s where the incident took place.
Shields resigned hours before the officer’s firing. She said that her reason for resigning as police chief was so the city and the community could move forward and to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Shields spent most of her career at the Atlanta Police Department; she will need that experience to succeed in Louisville. LMPD has struggled in the past year over the Breonna Taylor case, record shootings and the loss of more than 15% of its officers. Those are all problems that have developed under the leadership of her new boss, Mayor Greg Fischer, who has gone through two chiefs in a matter of months.
The former Atlanta police chief followed the guidelines of 21st Century Policing, which LMPD has followed for years. The philosophy was designed by President Barack Obama and involves more community-based approaches to law enforcement.
Shields is also vocal about getting the courts to do their part to prevent violent crime.
“We are dealing with convicted felons, convicted with a firearm,” she told NBC-affiliate WXIA. “The first question is why are they out on the street, and then the second thing is, they have an illegally obtained firearm. It’s a very real problem.”
For the most part, WXIA reported officer morale was fine under her watch. However, hundreds of officers left the Atlanta police force after the shooting, Shields’ resignation and Rolfe’s arrest and firing.
Fischer has lost two interim chiefs since he fired former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, who brought officer morale to an all-time low and was tainted by numerous scandals like the Explorer Child Sexual Abuse case.
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