Former Atlanta police chief Erika Shields will be leading the Louisville Metro Police Department, which was thrust into the national spotlight last year following the death of Breonna Taylor.
“I am honored to be selected for this important position at this important time,” Shields said in a statement Wednesday.
“I recognize that there is a lot of healing that needs to happen in policing in general, and that LMPD is at a crossroads. But I think there is also an opportunity to get this right here in Louisville, and to create a model for other cities to follow.”
The announcement came on the same day that news broke that Dets. Joshua Jaynes and Myles Cosgrove were fired by the LMPD for their in the raid that resulted in Taylor’s death. Jaynes was not at Taylor’s apartment on the night of the raid but had secured the search warrant. Cosgrove fired the shot that killed the former EMT.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised Shields as a “change-agent throughout her long distinguished career” and a “well-respected visionary.”
“When she came before us as an applicant to be our chief, saying this was the only chief position she was interested in, and full of passion and with the skills and experience to achieve the improvements and reform that we need, she was the unanimous choice,” he said at a news conference.
Shields said in June that she was resigning from the Atlanta Police Department, where she worked for more than two decades.
The announcement came hours after officer Garrett Rolfe fatally shot Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant. Rolfe was fired after the shooting.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement at the time that Shields wanted to resign “so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust desperately needed in our communities.”
Shields reiterated those sentiments at Wednesday’s press conference.
“The killing of Rayshard Brooks was a tragedy. It was awful. And what I recognized is that there were multiple issues at play, even before that, but it culminated with Rayshard’s killing. And what I realized is the longer I stayed, I was going to be a distraction and the city needed to move forward,” she said.
Shields will begin her new role with the LMPD on Jan. 19. Former LMPD assistant chief Yvette Gentry will continue to serve as chief in the interim.
Gentry was brought on amid a national outcry over Taylor’s death, a Black woman who died during a March police raid at her Louisville home.
Fischer said the city worked with the Police Executive Research Forum, a non-profit based police research organization, to help find a new chief. Shields briefly addressed critics of the decision, saying she hopes people look at her career.
“I would ask that people look at my body of work and see who I have been, what I have accomplished, what I require of a department,” she said.