LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A six-month search to find a chief to lead the Louisville Metro Police Department has come to an end.
Mayor Greg Fischer announced Wednesday that former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields was the "unanimous choice" to become the department's new chief.
"She is a leader, as the public called for, who not only understands but embraces the co-production of public safety, with accountability, transparency, honesty, integrity, and compassion," Fischer said during the announcement.
This is the third leadership change within the department following months of unrest and calls for racial justice and police reform.
Shields replaces interim Chief Yvette Gentry, who served more than two decades with the department and came out of retirement to bridge the divide between the community and police.
Shields stepped down from her role as Atlanta's police chief after three and a half years following the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy's parking lot on June 12, 2020.
"I recognize that there is a lot of healing that needs to happen in policing in general, and that LMPD is at a crossroads," Shields said. "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."
Metro Council President David James said Tuesday that Shields passed a challenging checklist by both the city and more than 10,000 Louisville residents who sent in their demands for a new leader.
He also said her appointment will be a welcome change for the department.
"I think the officers are just looking for good leadership," James said. "They've gone so many years with horrible leadership in their police department. To finally have some good news, I think they'll gravitate toward it."
Shields said she understands that officers are tired and fatigued, saying that if LMPD commits themselves to the highest standards, they will "[be] the best police department in this country."
Shields will be sworn in as chief on January 19. Former LMPD assistant chief Yvette Gentry will continue to serve as chief in the interim.
Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder stepped in as interim chief until his retirement in October when Gentry took over.
Mayor Fischer said the city worked with the Police Executive Research Forum or PERF, a non-profit based police research organization to lead the search for a new chief.
PERF is known for finding the best practices for cities across the country on fundamental issues such as reducing police use of force.
Who is Erika Shields?
Erika Shields joined the Atlanta Police Department in 1995 as a patrol officer, rising through the ranks and working in their public standards unit. She would eventually command that unit, developing and implementing the department’s policies.
She was named chief in 2016, becoming the second woman and only openly LGBTQ+ person to lead the department.
Shields stepped down from her role as Atlanta's police chief after three and a half years following the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks on June 12.
Investigators said officers found Brooks asleep in his car at a Wendy’s drive-thru.
While speaking with him, officials said there was a struggle and Brooks grabbed one of the officers’ taser. Investigators said Brooks fired the taser toward one of the officers who then shot and killed Brooks.
Shields stepped down from the department less than 24 hours after the shooting.
She released a statement saying she offered to step aside as chief, “out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department.”
Shields added, “it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
According to the Washington Post, Shields’ resignation made her the second chief after former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad to be off the job amid calls for police reform.