Former Atlanta police chief Erika Shields, who stepped down after an officer shot and killed a man following a struggle in a Wendy’s parking lot, will now lead the Louisville Metro Police Department, which is still under the spotlight almost a year after the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
Shields, who stepped aside in June a day after Rayshard Brooks was killed, will take over on January 19. A selection panel unanimously picked her, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said at a news conference Wednesday.
“It does an injustice to Breonna Taylor to say that they’re similar instances. They’re not,” Shields said. “Every situation is different. The public is not going to take the time to differentiate. They’re just going to see police heavy handedness. In saying that, though, I would ask people to look at my body of work.”
Shields spent 25 years working for the Atlanta Police Department, starting off as a patrol officer and then rising through the ranks. She is also a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), according to the Louisville mayor’s office.
Shields was one of more than two dozen who applied for the top cop job and was touted by Fischer for having a focus on reducing crime, strengthening trust and collaboration with residents and ensuring accountability among officers.
“We talked about it extensively,” Fisher said of Brooks’ death. “If you are the chief of a major city in this country, you have dealt with issues like this, so then the question is how do you deal with an issue like that, and I thought the action that she took to heal the city showed a lot of class on her behalf.”
Brooks, 27, was shot and killed by an officer in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant following a scuffle with police. The officers suspected Brooks of driving under the influence, and video at the scene showed them moving in to handcuff him. The video then showed that Brooks grabbed an officer’s Taser and appears to fire it at the officers as he ran away. One of the officers shot Brooks, who suffered two gunshot wounds to his back, officials said.
Shields called the shooting of Brooks “sickening.”
“As long as I stayed, I was going to be a distraction, and the city needed to move forward. It would have been self-serving to stay … and so I made a decision, not an easy one, to step down,” Shields said.
Shields, only the second woman to ever lead the Louisville Metro Police Department, will replace Yvette Gentry, who recently made the decision to fire detectives Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes. The firings were moves Shields supported.
“You are not going to get the benefit of the doubt,” Shields said. “Most cops are doing the job flawlessly, but then you see these highlights where people were just out of control and collectively, as a profession, we have to do this job better.”