Louisville officially has a new, permanent police chief. Former Atlanta police chief Erika Shields took the oath of office Tuesday at Metro Hall.
Shields is the fourth chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department in less than a year, taking over as the city and department continue to cope with the fallout of the controversial police killing of Breonna Taylor last March.
She stepped down as chief of Atlanta police after an officer there shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, a Black man. Shields acknowledged Tuesday that hiring her drew criticism.
“I believe in the people here and I believe in the community. We just have a lot of work to do,” she said at the swearing-in ceremony. “And I know you’ve taken some hits for picking me, and I just want to say thank you for having the confidence in my ability to get this job done.”
Some Louisville residents have described the choice of Shields as “tone deaf.”
Shameka Parrish-Wright, a prominent protest leader who plans to run for mayor next year, questioned why the city did not choose someone local for the job.
“We have everything that we need right here in Louisville. Why not promote someone who has the relationships, who can build, who can help us start to heal?” she said in an interview last week. “Why go outside and choose someone that folks are going to see as a quitter?”
She also criticized the city’s secretive process for selecting Shields. Louisville has refused to share the list of finalists, and swore the selection panel to secrecy through the use of non-disclosure agreements. Officials say releasing the names of candidates would have affected the applicant pool.
Shields will be paid $210,000 annually.
Mayor Greg Fischer, who administered the oath to Shields, praised her as someone who would bring change to a department that has struggled without a permanent chief since last summer.
He fired the last permanent chief, Steve Conrad, following the revelation that officers did not capture body camera footage when LMPD officers and National Guard members shot at West End barbecue shop owner David McAtee. He died from a National Guard bullet.
“I knew that we needed a special kind of leader,” Fischer said. “An experienced, progressive, reform-minded leader who fiercely believes in the role of police as guardians, and who understands that the practice of policing must evolve just as our society is evolving.”
Fischer touted some reforms that followed the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, including the creation of a new civilian review board. But how much change LMPD will undergo remains to be seen, since some reforms will only be possible if state legislators change laws.
So far, the General Assembly has not focused on police reform legislation.