Who Is The Real Erika Shields? New Chief Often Espouses Progressive Views But Still Attracts Controversy

4 days after the homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a bit greater than an hour earlier than a police cruiser could be set ablaze close to the spot the place she had been standing in downtown Atlanta, police chief Erika Shields caught out in her crisp white uniform amid the ocean of protesters.

Like different components of the nation, Atlanta was boiling on Might 29, 2020. Within the days since video went viral of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck on the road exterior Cup Meals, passionate protests had turn into fiery riots in Minneapolis. Early that morning, gasoline mask-wearing state troopers had handcuffed a Black CNN reporter and his crew whereas they have been stay on air. The night time earlier than, in Louisville, an unknown assailant shot seven individuals throughout a protest downtown calling for justice within the killing of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black lady shot and killed by LMPD officers throughout a botched raid of her south Louisville residence in March. President Donald Trump was threatening to make use of the federal authorities’s would possibly to quell the spreading unrest. On that Friday night time, the downtowns of many American cities — eerily empty for greater than two months as a result of pandemic — have been all of the sudden stuffed with protesters marching in opposition to police violence, the contagious power of the motion radiating from the heartland to the coasts. The protesters in Atlanta and Louisville — sparked by the killings of Floyd and Taylor — have been a part of what would come to be considered doubtlessly the most important such motion in U.S. historical past. 

On the comparatively quiet sidelines of the Atlanta protest on Might 29, Shields, who turned APD’s chief in late 2016, spoke to a reporter from the native CBS affiliate, calling Chauvin —who had knelt on Floyd’s neck for greater than 9 minutes — “a really cold son of a bitch,” including that the worth of Black lives had been diminished on this nation. Standing exterior the CNN Heart, she advised the reporter that the Atlanta protest was “as orderly as something like this is going to be” and that she didn’t need it to show into an “arrest fest,” as that will simply make issues worse. Quickly, Shields’ presence on the bottom attracted the eye of protesters, who jostled in opposition to each other to pepper her with questions and frustrations. 

Why does it take so lengthy for individuals to get arrested after they [kill] an unarmed Black man?

“I’m the first one to say it was bullshit. [Chauvin] shoulda gone to jail that day.”

Are police going to make use of tear gasoline right now?

“We’re not looking to use tear gas. My ass wouldn’t be standing here if we were looking to use tear gas. I’m here to hear you.”

The commander-in-chief of the land says, ‘When there’s looting, there’s taking pictures.’ Why don’t we’ve got any convictions?

“That’s not my guy. That ain’t my guy. I said — I said Trump is not my guy, all right?”

He’s not your commander-in-chief?

“No,” she stated, laughing and shaking her head.

In a video launched the day earlier than, Shields stated what had occurred to Floyd was homicide — virtually 11 months earlier than Chauvin was convicted of homicide — and that the anger and concern on the streets was justified. Whereas speaking about Floyd’s dying, she stated, “These officers didn’t just fail as cops; they fundamentally failed as human beings.” She stated the police drive hires individuals who characterize society, which suggests typically the worst components of society find yourself on the payroll. She stated the officers deserved to serve jail time for what they’d accomplished. For the police chief of a serious American metropolis — largely a fraternity recognized for circling the wagons within the face of harsh criticism — the video was a exceptional assertion. 

If the goal was to calm anger in Atlanta, although, it didn’t work. Now Shields was standing in the course of a big protest making an attempt to have conversations about policing and inequity, amid chants of Fuck the po-lice! Fuck the po-lice! Behind her, an officer nicely over a head taller than her watched her again. In entrance of her, a protester with an assault rifle slung in entrance of his chest supplied her a enterprise card so they may have a dialog later.

She advised the protesters she didn’t need individuals to go to jail for “stupid shit” like possessing weed, jaywalking, ingesting in public. She stated police needed to perceive who criminals have been: individuals who had weapons and have been taking pictures different individuals. She talked about the necessity to overcome financial and racial segregation in Atlanta. She stated officers had been too lenient with worker misconduct. 

A white protester lowered the damaged surgical masks he was holding up over his nostril and mouth to start out telling Shields about how police have been meant to be protectors of the individuals. His level was misplaced as he stopped speaking, recoiled and fled as chaos engulfed these surrounding Shields. It was a mad stampede of retreat, purpose unknown — a trademark of these early days of protest. As some sprinted and a few froze and tried to consolation each other in embrace, officers’ fingers reached out to seize Shields and information her previous the enormous red-and-white CNN letters exterior the cable information big’s headquarters and take her into the constructing. 

A mass of protesters quickly converged on the CNN entrance, with some scaling the large letters now lined with graffiti. About an hour after Shields left, some began smashing police cruisers parked on the road, battering them with steel crowd-control barricades, skateboards and fists. Just a few climbed onto autos and stomped windshields with their ft. 

At about 8:05 p.m., someone set an already smashed-up police cruiser on hearth. A shirtless man with a police riot protect spray-painted ACAB — All Cops Are Bastards — hopped on prime of the burning automobile, triumphantly elevating his plunder to cheers as smoke rose over downtown Atlanta and flames licked out of the automobile. On the door of the burning cruiser, was the police division’s seal: a phoenix rising from an inferno. 

Somewhat greater than two weeks later, Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was shot and killed in a Wendy’s parking zone in Peoplestown, a neighborhood south of downtown Atlanta. The police had been known as as a result of Brooks was asleep in his automobile, blocking the fast-food restaurant’s drive-thru. As two APD officers tried to arrest him, Brooks, who seemed to be impaired, wrestled a taser away from certainly one of them. After Brooks discharged the taser whereas making an attempt to run away, one of many officers, Garrett Rolfe, opened hearth and hit Brooks twice within the again. Brooks later died of his accidents at a hospital.

Following the killing, the Georgia NAACP known as for Shields to resign, saying her division “continues to terrorize protesters and murder unarmed Black bodies.” Lower than a day after the taking pictures, Shields stepped down. In a brief assertion on the time, Shields stated her resignation was the results of “a deep love for this city and this department” and that she had religion in Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Bottoms stated Shields had resigned “so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities.” (Bottoms chosen Rodney Bryant, a Black man who had retired from APD after greater than 30 years on the drive, to exchange Shields.)

The racial-justice protests and unrest that had quieted in Atlanta because the dying of George Floyd grew extra distant have been rekindled when information broke of Brooks’ dying. The night time Shields stepped down, the Wendy’s the place Brooks had been killed was burned down and protesters blocked an interstate in dramatic scenes. Shields obtained the decision concerning the taking pictures in the course of the night time. “I knew it was going to be problematic. How problematic, I wasn’t sure,” she tells me in July throughout an interview at LMPD’s coaching academy. She provides she had already been considering of stepping apart “for unrelated reasons” however doesn’t elaborate. By the subsequent afternoon, she was gone. Later, grumblings in Atlanta recommended the mayor compelled her out, however Shields says it was her determination. “I knew that for me to stay would be a distraction,” she says.

Her three and a half years as chief over in a flash, Shields stayed on town’s payroll for some time, working as a venture supervisor on the IT aspect of policing — issues like APD’s computer-aided dispatch system that routed 911 calls; a information system that managed police experiences; and upgrading the video integration heart, which captured 10,000 video feeds from throughout town. Shields didn’t have a background in computer systems (she doesn’t even use social media) however knew the best way to handle. 

“When I stepped aside, I took a couple of months and I just — I didn’t turn on the TV news, didn’t look at the internet,” she says. “I really enjoyed [the IT job]. It helped me get out of a really dark space, because I loved Atlanta, I loved the Atlanta Police Department. It’s my home. And I really didn’t like how it ended.”

As she processed and decompressed after her tumultuous finish as APD chief, she began getting provides to work for smaller departments and, in her phrases, “less-conflicted” departments, in addition to the non-public sector, the place criticisms are rarer. “I was really grateful, and the stuff that was being presented interests me, but I knew I wasn’t there yet. I still wanted to be in a position where I could really help mentor and bring forward the next generation of police leaders,” she says. “And the only way to do that is to be a chief of police in an agency that’s in the mix.” Ultimately, she was contacted by the Police Government Analysis Discussion board, which was conducting Louisville’s seek for a everlasting chief following the firing of Steve Conrad in June 2020.

Shields had by no means been to Louisville. “I knew they had good, I won’t say great, basketball and football teams. I’d always heard it was a really nice city, and that it’s like bourbon capital of the U.S. — which, I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’d always heard really nice things about it,” she says. Her first go to to Louisville got here in winter 2020, when chilly and Covid gave town a desolate really feel. However she noticed the character of neighborhoods and fell in love with the structure of Previous Louisville. The town oozed character that Atlanta’s new builds lacked. “I love just driving around, looking,” she says. “And I want to go in like all of these old, creepy buildings and walk around, which is probably not the best idea.” Her accomplice, Amy, pushed a bit to maneuver to the northeast or California, however Shields advised her she’d like Louisville. 

On Jan. 6, nationwide information of Shields’ hiring as LMPD’s new chief was muted by the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob egged on by the outgoing president. Domestically, nevertheless, Black leaders concerned within the protest motion have been appalled by the choice to rent Shields. On Twitter the night time earlier than Shields’ hiring was formally introduced, distinguished Louisville activist Hannah Drake wrote, “In Louisville we are dealing with the murder of #BreonnaTaylor. You know what my city decided to do? Hire [Erika] Shields as the new police chief. Yes, that [Erika] Shields, the police chief that resigned after the murder of Rayshard Brooks. PRAY MY DAMN STRENGTH!!”

Shields, who’s now 54, was the unanimous selection of an eight-member panel, which was made up largely by individuals of coloration. Her hiring got here on the finish of a six-month search through which not one of the different 27 candidates have been ever named, a stage of secrecy that stoked mistrust amongst critics. For some, it was insulting that Shields was employed at a time when Louisville had not even begun to heal from its personal traumas inflicted by police. To others, her determination to step down in Atlanta when issues obtained scorching represented a failure in management. Talking from a podium inside Metro Corridor on the day she was introduced as the brand new chief, Shields struck a tone that echoed what protesters and their supporters had been saying and shouting: Racial disparities exist in Louisville policing. “This doesn’t happen to white people. It just doesn’t,” she stated that day, referring to Breonna Taylor’s killing. “If we really are doing this fairly and impartially, why is this not happening in white communities? And don’t tell me that it’s because Black people are where the crime is, Black people are where the violence is. That’s crap. If you’re going to police fairly and equitably, your practices have to be consistent, and your standards have to be consistent regardless of the neighborhood.”

Shields’ rhetoric couldn’t have drawn a starker distinction with Louisville’s final everlasting police chief, Steve Conrad, who had pushed again in opposition to accusations of racial bias in LMPD’s policing and, in response to paperwork obtained by WDRB, stated he had by no means “pondered” whether or not younger white males and younger Black males have been handled in a different way within the metropolis. Conrad was fired days into Louisville’s 2020 protests when David McAtee, a Black man who owned a barbecue restaurant, was shot lifeless when LMPD and Nationwide Guard troopers, implementing a curfew, moved into the West Finish, about 20 blocks away from the protesters downtown. Addressing the firing on the time, Mayor Greg Fischer, citing the truth that physique cameras hadn’t been activated, stated, “This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated.” (Shields was preceded by two interim chiefs, Robert Schroeder and Yvette Gentry.) After Shields’ unveiling, the native chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police — which represents all sworn LMPD officers, save for the chief and deputy chief — launched a press release saying the group was “cautiously optimistic” about Shields’ appointment however took exception to her perception “that race plays any part in LMPD investigations.”

Shields arrived in a Louisville the place partisans of each the protesters and the police have been skeptical, if not brazenly hostile. She got here to a severely understaffed division that went via bouts of “blue flu” in 2020, to a metropolis with a homicide price spiraling uncontrolled, with its 173 homicides in 2020 — a virtually 90 p.c surge over the 92 killings in 2019. (The town is ready to surpass that grim document in 2021.) A metropolis outsiders traditionally related to Muhammad Ali and horses was now a byword for police killing Black individuals, talked about in the identical breath as Ferguson and Minneapolis. A division that, inside months of her arrival, could be subjected to a wide-ranging investigation by the U.S. Division of Justice, stemming from the killing of Breonna Taylor, LMPD’s response to protests and accusations of biased policing. A metropolis the place each transfer, each phrase, could be beneath a microscope. Who would need that job? 

To these who knew they have been law enforcement officials, they have been Ebony and Ivory, two undercovers — one Black, one white — rolling via the impoverished streets of Atlanta in clunkers whereas working narcotics and prostitution operations. Typically, they’d stand on the street in, to listen to Shields describe it, “booty dresses” bought at Goodwill, ready for johns to bust. “I was not very good. Jackie (Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel, aka Ebony, her partner) was the better prostitute,” says Shields, who was nicknamed Ivory.

The neighborhood they labored was practically solely Black. Prostitutes on the beat have been about 50-50 Black and white. However the johns have been a clearly outlined demographic: largely white males from the ’burbs, driving right into a tough a part of city to attain low cost intercourse. “Almost to a person they all told me they were seeking quick sex that they didn’t feel right asking their wife for,” she says of the boys she arrested. “This was in the middle of the crack epidemic. We weren’t call girls. I mean, I was healthy, but the people standing next to me, these folks had sores on their mouths. This stuff was bad.” She says the expertise taught her issues, for one: Males are transactional, ladies are emotional. “It was really very interesting to me. It helped me understand, it helped me do my job better down the road,” she says.

Working as a cop on the streets of Atlanta was a world away from the life Shields had recognized. Raised in rural, small-town (and virtually all-white) upstate New York, Shields went to Webster College in St. Louis, getting a level in worldwide research in 1990. She then struck out on a profession as a stockbroker, shifting to Boston. It was not a superb match. “I realized one day when I was sitting in the office that I just hated it. I was bored,” she says. “And I can’t stand being bored.” (Requested if her IT job with town of Atlanta after she stepped down as chief was equally boring, she quipped, “Even being a stockbroker seemed more interesting at that point.”) Regulation enforcement had all the time intrigued Shields. And if she was going to modify careers, she would possibly as nicely change locales and get away from Boston’s punishing winters. “It wasn’t the most intellectual of decision-making processes,” she says. In 1995, Shields, then in her late 20s, joined the Atlanta Police Division. 

In a 2018 TEDx discuss, Shields recounted coming to Atlanta to interview for a job she didn’t get and seeing how totally different it was from the life she had lived thus far, saying, “So I come down for this job interview and I’m on this corporate elevator, high-rise, and I’m going up, and I can remember this like it was yesterday: On either side of me are African American males, good-looking, in three-piece suits. And it hit me at that moment that the only Black individuals riding the elevator with me back in Boston in my corporate high-rise there were the cleaning people. And I knew then that my circle had a lot to be desired. And I knew then that I wanted to be in Atlanta. And I knew then that if I was going to ever drive change — that in my heart of hearts I felt needed to be driven — I had to become better educated.”

After shifting to Georgia and signing on with the police division, she struggled to grasp accents on 911 calls. However the metropolis felt welcoming. After a couple of years of engaged on patrol — that’s, responding to calls — she labored undercover in south Atlanta’s Zone 3, a spot that was, in response to Lou Arcangeli, APD’s deputy chief on the time, “very intense — high calls for service, lots of poverty, lots of problems.” Of Shields, he says, “She clearly was a diminutive-in-size female, but she had a big personality and all the cops liked her.” 

Loads of the power on the beat went towards individuals shopping for and promoting crack cocaine: busting down doorways in drug busts, selecting up jaywalking prostitutes on possession expenses and doing managed buys. “At the time, oh my god, I loved it. It was an adrenaline rush serving drug search warrants, locking somebody up who had the drugs on them,” she says. “At the time I enjoyed it. I didn’t know better.” A long time later, Shields says she had gained a broader perspective on dependancy and the failures of that sort of policing. When the opioid epidemic arrived — and was comparatively seen as a public-health disaster — Shields noticed racial disparity in the way it was handled. “We got into the heroin-opioid crisis — that directly mirrors crack — and yet the rules of enforcement are markedly different,” she says. “And it is no coincidence that it’s related to race.”

Working undercover, Shields and Gwinn-Villaroel shaped a robust bond. “We taught each other; we were yin and yang,” Gwinn-Villaroel says. “I like to say for Erika and myself, what she lacked was my strength, and vice versa. We fed off one another.” Gwinn-Villaroel, Black and from Atlanta, allowed Shields to see town via a special lens. And so they simply had chemistry, which, sitting in a 1984 Cutlass collectively for lengthy stretches of time, was essential. They have been shut, however Shields was additionally hiding a part of herself from Gwinn-Villaroel, who was non secular, usually preaching to prostitutes they arrested, and from the Black group, which Shields thought-about illiberal towards homosexual individuals on the time. In her TEDx discuss, Shields recounted the night time she got here out to Gwinn-Villaroel. “I can remember clearly that it was night, that we were in some crappy, unmarked car on a crappy side street — actually, trying to catch a rapist; that’s the good part we were doing. And I just thought: I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted from expending energy trying to keep this relationship upright. But I’m not being honest. So I tell her: ‘You know what? I’m gay.’ I figure we’re not getting the rapist, we may as well turn it into something. And what I should have seen at that time, Jackie just — she had no issue with it. She immediately wanted to run my dating life and boss me around.” At present, Gwinn-Villaroel, now LMPD’s deputy chief, has been shuttling forwards and backwards between Louisville and Atlanta, the place she stays a pastor.

In Shields’ workplace at LMPD headquarters downtown, I requested her if she had ever confronted adversity in legislation enforcement due to her sexual orientation. She stated ladies face points as police as a result of they’re ladies, and that her obstacles didn’t must do together with her being homosexual. She introduced up a time when a supervisor had a dialog with a male accomplice of hers. “A supervisor asked him: ‘So tell me, you’re fuckin’ her, aren’t you?’” she recollects. “And ironically, when I came here, I had an almost-verbatim conversation with one of the females here; the same thing was done to her. It’s just one of those assumptions where, if you’re female, you’re going to be promiscuous, that you can’t just have the professional relationship.”

A no-knock warrant obtained beneath questionable circumstances. A shot fired as police breached the door. A salvo of return gunfire. A lifeless Black lady.

Earlier than Breonna Taylor there was Kathryn Johnston. Johnston was at residence in northwest Atlanta when the police confirmed as much as execute a no-knock raid on the night of Nov. 21, 2006, two days earlier than Thanksgiving. They’d come to the 92-year-old Black lady’s home after a suspect, on whom officers had planted marijuana, pointed it out to keep away from going to jail. (He stated he’d seen a drug vendor there with cocaine inside when he went there to purchase crack.) In making use of for a warrant, officers stated they wanted a no-knock raid as a result of the suspected drug vendor had surveillance tools. Johnston lived within the Bluff, a neighborhood with a fame as a high-crime, open-air drug market; Johnston’s residence had bars over its home windows and doorways, and he or she’d been given a .38 pistol by a relative to guard herself. It took a while for officers to get via the bars on her entrance door — sufficient time for Johnston to retrieve the outdated gun and hearth off a shot as they breached the door. In response, officers fired 39 pictures, hitting her 5 or 6 instances and killing her. After the taking pictures, officers planted marijuana in her basement to attempt to cowl their tracks. 

The killing of Johnston would ultimately see three officers despatched to jail on state and federal expenses. Their suspect-turned-informant had seemingly picked out the house at random, fearful he’d be locked up after officers demanded a tip and threatened to cost him with dealing medicine. After the killing, the officers colluded to get their story straight. One other confidential informant police had beforehand used would later come ahead and say police obtained in contact with him after the killing, telling him to say he did a managed drug purchase at Johnston’s residence earlier than the warrant was secured. When expenses have been introduced, Fulton County’s district lawyer known as the killing “one of the most horrific tragedies to occur in our community,” including that investigators confirmed that “the practices that led to her death were common occurrences” of the APD narcotics unit concerned. The killing of Breonna Taylor greater than 13 years later differed in that it was her boyfriend who fired the shot and that no person was charged within the killing. However to Shields, the 2 killings have “dramatic similarities.” 

The Johnston killing — in addition to a 2009 raid by a tactical narcotics unit at a homosexual membership, the Atlanta Eagle, the place officers allegedly used homophobic slurs and located no medicine — created a stinging black eye for the police division. These incidents “probably set us back decades in terms of trust factor with the community,” says Jeff Glazier, who served as Shields’ deputy chief in Atlanta. For Shields, nonetheless years away from being chief, the incidents have been formative, making ready her for what was to come back in Louisville within the wake of the Breonna Taylor killing and the protests that adopted: the denials of wrongdoing, the refusal to take duty, the fixed scrutiny, the pressing want to alter the division’s tradition. “It was scripted for me because I’d lived it,” Shields says. “It opens up the floodgates. Everything’s being scrutinized and lawsuits are being slapped on you like yellow sticky notes. And so, I knew the path that LMPD was going to go down and I thought: This is a department that has to change, because we cannot have major-city police departments committing infractions such as this.” In Atlanta, she witnessed a policing tradition through which higher-ups pressured these beneath them for outcomes with out ensuring officers have been getting these outcomes lawfully. “That’s what I see coming here. I think there was a lot of that: Get those results,” she says. 

Atlanta within the late aughts confirmed her that police can lie. On the raid of the homosexual membership, she says the police division’s posture was that the Eagle was a seedy bar and that the officers did nothing incorrect. In actuality, she says, police had focused the homosexual group with none possible trigger. I requested her if, as a homosexual lady, that felt private on the time. “The police culture is so strong,” she says. “I firmly believed the police.”

Shields watched the George Floyd video. An alert popped up on her telephone and he or she clicked on it and watched. She feels an obligation to observe such movies, so she will be able to attempt to perceive the local weather of the nation, to identify any coaching deficiencies at play, to have the ability to perceive law-enforcement points past her jurisdiction. 

“I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I watched it, and I thought: That just can’t be right. And I watched it again. Literally, I had to sit down. I just could not believe I was watching that. It was just that appalling. I wasn’t even processing it through my police lens.” 

Amy, her accomplice, entered the home and requested what Shields was doing. Shields simply pushed the telephone to her; Amy couldn’t make it the entire method via. Shields knew protests would observe (“Rightfully so,” she says), however she didn’t anticipate their dimension, unfold and longevity.

I requested if she would have known as what occurred to Floyd homicide immediately if it was her personal officers concerned. “Oh, for sure,” she says. “I think George Floyd was so shocking and appalling. I mean, who in their right mind is going to think that was rational? Even by misconduct standards, that was an outlier. I still can’t get my mind around it, quite honestly.”

It wasn’t till she stepped down as chief in Atlanta that she had time to learn extra about Breonna Taylor’s killing. She remembers the way it felt odd that the killing had occurred months beforehand. “I was heartbroken,” she says. “I saw a young lady who was dead who should not be dead. There’s no two ways about it: It was because of the decision-making of a police department she was dead.” I requested Shields the place blame lies in Taylor’s killing. “I would put the bulk of the responsibility on the individuals who secured the warrant,” she says. (The warrant that resulted within the raid of Taylor’s Springfield Drive residence was tied to a narcotics investigation involving Jamarcus Glover, an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s. In making use of for the warrant, detective Joshua Jaynes stated postal inspectors had verified that Glover had been receiving packages at Taylor’s residence; they’d not. Jaynes was terminated in January for mendacity in acquiring the warrant.)

Within the aftermath of the killing, Shields noticed the missteps proceed. Breonna Taylor’s mom, Tamika Palmer, was left frantically ready for 10 hours for information on her daughter earlier than studying Taylor was lifeless. Shields says a “lack of leadership” was on show on the scene. And within the days, weeks and months after, LMPD clammed up and closed ranks as an alternative of being clear and taking possession of errors that occurred the night Taylor was killed. In a press convention, former chief Conrad described Taylor as a suspect. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was charged with tried homicide of a police officer — expenses that will later be dropped beneath scrutiny. 

Shields noticed LMPD’s extensively criticized, heavy-handed response to the protests final yr as problematic as nicely. “You do have to allow for wide latitude when you’re dealing with something as emotional as what we saw last summer,” she says. “The arrest numbers I found to be quite high.” Between Might 29 and Sept. 28 of final yr — the peak of Louisville’s protests — town noticed practically 900 protest-related arrests, in response to paperwork obtained by the Courier-Journal. LMPD’s response has attracted federal consideration, with the wide-ranging DOJ investigation into the division additionally taking a look at whether or not LMPD officers used extreme drive in opposition to protesters. In July, former LMPD officer Cory Evans pleaded responsible to federal expenses for a 2020 incident through which the federal government says he struck a person within the head with a riot stick whereas the protester knelt together with his fingers within the air, surrendering to arrest.

In an interview in June, Shields advised me she expects extra federal expenses — notably expenses for actions by police on the night time David McAtee was killed at his barbecue restaurant at twenty sixth and Broadway, throughout the road from Dino’s Meals Mart. Quickly after LMPD officers and Nationwide Guard troopers moved in to disperse a non-protest crowd gathered in violation of curfew, within the early moments of June 1, 2020, LMPD officer Katie Crews started firing pepper balls within the course of individuals in entrance of McAtee’s restaurant. As patrons retreated into his kitchen, McAtee stepped into the doorway and fired a pistol twice (what his household’s lawyer stated have been warning pictures into the air), prompting LMPD officers and Nationwide Guard members to fireside again, with a Nationwide Guard soldier killing him with a bullet from a M4A1 assault rifle. (McAtee’s household has stated he would by no means deliberately hearth at police.)

Shields says the firing of pepper balls at twenty sixth and Broadway the night time McAtee was killed “really jump-started the chaos that ensued” and characterised it as the results of the decision-making of 1 particular person. “I think you’re going to see that there had been a culture that had allowed for last summer to really go sideways on multiple fronts,” she says.

“There was decision-making by individuals — not even commanders — that was very unprofessional,” she says. “Whether it’s firing paint balls at people or smoke balls or whatever the hell they were firing at them when you certainly didn’t need to, or hitting people in the head when they were allowing you to handcuff them.” 

I requested her if she believes LMPD would have made the choice to interrupt up a non-protest crowd violating curfew in a whiter, extra prosperous neighborhood — if what occurred to David McAtee might have occurred within the East Finish. “I might say, simply based mostly on my expertise with human beings in America, that the reply in each metropolis could be no. And I believe that’s the core of what’s incorrect with legislation enforcement. 

“It’s not even so much how we police; it’s that we police differently depending on the color of the community.”

When she took over in Atlanta she noticed issues, too — and turned to self-discipline and reform to attempt to resolve them. For one, she nervous officers weren’t utilizing their physique cameras. Shields, who describes herself as a “huge proponent” of physique cameras, ordered an audit, which revealed officers have been routinely violating the body-camera coverage and failing to activate their gadgets.

Shields would go on to introduce strict penalties for individuals who didn’t activate their physique cameras. That sort of self-discipline isn’t “particularly popular,” stated Dean Dabney, chair of the Division of Felony Justice and Criminology at Georgia State College, however “she kind of had a way of standing up in front of people and saying: ‘I understand that’s not popular — here’s why I did it. We’re not going to continue to be unsuccessful in our mission.’” And the self-discipline yielded outcomes. Jeff Glazier, Shields’ deputy chief in Atlanta who left the division in 2020 and now serves as chief of police in Ponce Inlet, Florida, a small coastal city simply south of Daytona Seaside, says, “As soon as we started handing out written reprimands, and one- and two-day suspensions, then you can kind of see the culture change and people were turning their body cameras on when they were en route to their calls. And it worked. You can see the complaints go down, you can see the use of force go down.”

In January 2020, Ty Dennis, then an APD officer, was moonlighting as safety at a nightclub when he was known as to answer the scene of a close-by taking pictures. Driving to the scene in his private automobile, he says he forgot to activate his physique digicam when he arrived. “I got dinged for it. But I wasn’t mad at her for it; I’m man enough to take responsibility for my own actions,” he says. For the remainder of his time with APD, he was not allowed to work aspect jobs — jobs that assist pad the incomes of many officers. Regardless of the self-discipline, Dennis says Shields gave off a sense that she had officers’ backs. Typically, she’d depart thank-you notes or present playing cards on his desk to indicate appreciation. “It’s just like a football coach: If you’ve got your troops behind you, you’ll run through a wall for your coach. And when you see that your coach or your chief has your back, like she did and like she does, it makes you want to go harder for her because you know she’s appreciating it.” 

In 2019, after an APD officer on an FBI job drive shot and killed Jimmy Atchison, a 21-year-old Black man, as he emerged from a closet he had been hiding in, allegedly to give up, Shields moved to outfit all of her officers on federal job forces with physique cameras. When the feds refused to permit cameras on their job forces, Shields pulled her officers from them.

In Louisville, the place officers didn’t activate their physique cameras throughout the killing of David McAtee and have been a part of a unit that was not required to make use of physique cameras throughout the raid on Breonna Taylor’s residence, Shields says staffing is just too tight proper now to permit for a devoted crew to audit body-camera footage like she did in Atlanta. However she says they’re maintaining a tally of body-worn digicam utilization, whereas additionally buying expertise that may implement utilization. “I feel as though the compliance is good, but I also know that we’re not where we should be,” she says. “If an officer’s camera is not on during a serious incident, you’re going to have problems.” In additional “egregious” incidents, Shields says, officers will face issues not simply with the police drive, however with the judicial system. Within the practically $196-million 2022 police price range authorized by Metro Council in June (greater than every other metropolis division’s price range), Shields included a system that robotically activates physique cameras at any time when an officer attracts their firearm. There is no such thing as a agency timeline on its implementation, however Shields hopes to have it up and operating early subsequent yr. 

In Atlanta, Shields was additionally a accomplice in establishing a community-led, pre-arrest diversion program, which gave officers the choice of calling on social staff as an alternative of arresting people for actions that resulted from psychological sickness, dependancy or low high quality of life. This might embrace somebody inflicting a disturbance by shouting exterior a downtown restaurant or disrobing and bathing in a public fountain or, like the oldsters Shields locked up again when she was a plainclothes road cop, having a small quantity of medicine of their pocket. Moki Macias, govt director of Atlanta’s Policing Options and Diversion Initiative, says, “The constant challenge that we had was the culture change needed inside the department. There had to be structural changes within the department that would create incentives to divert people from arrest.” Over the primary two years of this system, which started in 2017, Macias says simply 150 diversions have been made whereas there have been possible 1000’s of arrests for low-level offenses that might have been diverted. This yr, this system has launched a quantity that members of the general public can name as an alternative of 911, bypassing police altogether for acceptable points. 

As a part of the reforms Louisville introduced within the aftermath of the killing of Breonna Taylor, town stated it will discover making a diversion program much like the one in Atlanta and different cities. The College of Louisville is working with town to review the best way to implement such a program, which is months away on the earliest. Shields envisions a deflection program routed via 911, with dispatchers skilled on the best way to direct calls and whether or not to get cops or a deflection crew on the scene. “We’ve seen police across the country shoot people who have no clothes on — explain that to me,” Shields says. “At that point I’m like, ‘I don’t even want a cop out there.’” 

To Shields, when individuals say “defund the police,” they’re really calling for one thing she desires as nicely: extra assets for social companies. “I think there are people who truly believe: abolish police. I think the more common meaning I’ve encountered is: People want more money put toward social services,” she says. “And I do think there has to be far greater investment in social services if we’re ever going to get a handle on the underlying issues.”

Shields was not with out criticism in Atlanta.

Tiffany Roberts, community-engagement and movement-building counsel on the Southern Heart for Human Rights in Atlanta, first met Shields within the context of establishing Fulton County’s pre-arrest diversion program round 2015. Her first impression was that Shields was open-minded on methods to forestall individuals from getting into the prison authorized system. Her opinion of Shields modified when Deaundre Phillips was killed simply weeks into Shields’ tenure as chief. The 24-year-old Black man was shot and killed by APD officer Yasin Abdulahad on Jan. 26, 2017, when he accompanied a good friend selecting up paperwork at a police annex constructing. Abdulahad and one other officer, each in plainclothes, had approached the automobile Phillips was sitting in after, in response to Abdulahad, they smelled marijuana. What adopted stays a unclear, however after speaking with the officers exterior the automobile, Phillips re-entered the automobile via the passenger aspect and was adopted via the identical door by Abdulahad; as Phillips drove away with the Abdulahad within the automobile, Abdulahad fired a shot and killed him. It stays unclear what precisely occurred, and security-camera footage later contradicted Abdulahad’s model of occasions — notably, that he was being dragged by the automobile when he fired. Within the highlight for the primary time, Shields criticized the shortage of transparency surrounding the taking pictures whereas additionally describing the officer concerned as “widely respected.” 

“She completely failed to respond in a manner that was compassionate,” Roberts says. “She avoided the family for quite some time.” Roberts began to see a distinction between the picture Shields offered and the way the APD operated. “I think there is a difference between Erika Shields the spokesperson, the public figure, and Erika Shields the leader within the police department,” Roberts says. “Erika Shields the spokesperson is working really hard to align her image with that of Atlanta, which is considered to be a progressive city. But I think Erika Shields the leader within the APD did very little to change the culture of the Atlanta Police Department.”

Columbus Ward, a longtime Atlanta activist and group chief in Peoplestown, the neighborhood the place Rayshard Brooks was killed, was additionally essential of Shields’ time as APD chief. “I expected more than what we got,” he says of her response to the killing of Brooks. “I expected her to step up to the plate and talk about what’s going to be some new…initiative of the police department to make sure this kind of stuff doesn’t happen anymore.”

Shields additionally confronted backlash for her dealing with of the protests in Atlanta. Whereas she seen LMPD’s 2020 protest response as heavy on arrests, APD initially outpaced their counterparts in Louisville: By way of June 6 of final yr, not less than 170 had been arrested throughout protests in Kentucky’s largest metropolis, whereas 532 have been arrested in Atlanta in response to native press experiences. (Louisville’s figures ultimately surpassed Atlanta, however large-scale protests right here continued all through the summer time and into the autumn.)

In a Might 30, 2020, incident that rapidly went viral, body-camera footage confirmed APD officers utilizing tasers on a younger Black couple after breaking certainly one of their automobile home windows. The faculty college students had gone out to get one thing to eat earlier than getting caught in site visitors ensuing from the protests. Police implementing a curfew confronted them. Shields and Atlanta’s mayor reviewed the footage and decided that two of the officers ought to be fired for extreme use of drive. Inside days, the Fulton County district lawyer charged six officers within the incident. In a memo obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Structure, Shields stated the terminated officers have been “good people and good cops” who made errors. She additionally stated the choice to cost six officers was politically motivated and that she wouldn’t “sit quietly by and watch our employees get swept up in the tsunami of political jockeying during an election year.”

When Shields was tapped to be Louisville’s chief, amongst those that criticized town’s determination have been two protest leaders, pastor Timothy Findley Jr. and Shameka Parrish-Wright, each of whom have since launched runs within the 2022 mayoral race. Again in January, Findley thought-about how Shields had been chief in Atlanta when Brooks was killed, telling NBC Information her hiring right here was “mind-blowing.” At present, he says, it’s nonetheless too early to inform how Shields is doing. “I think that it’s difficult to give a rating — passing, A+ or anything like that — because our city hasn’t changed,” he says. 

What Shields says about race and policing is a departure from Louisville’s final police chief, Findley says, however provides that’s considerably anticipated within the wake of protests, a time when Netflix added a Black Lives Matter part and the way in which many Individuals speak about race has shifted. “It creates a great story for her to say those things, but the problem is, the words have to line up with action,” he says. “There has to be substantive change and action behind those words.”

Parrish-Wright says, “To me, you can say one thing, but do your actions match that? So, you know what to say because you come from Atlanta, which has a larger Black population than we have.” (Considered a Black mecca, Atlanta is greater than a 3rd African American, and Shields was town’s first white police chief since 1990. Louisville, by comparability, is about 22 p.c Black.) “She says one thing, but we still have someone that was beat up right outside our Hall of Justice by police for simply standing out in the street with a cross,” Parrish-Wright says, referring to the April arrest of protester Dee Garrett. Parrish-Wright says, if elected, she’d ask Shields why she ought to hold her on. (Craig Greenberg, the previous CEO of 21c Museum Inns who has raised essentially the most cash within the mayoral race thus far, says LMPD nonetheless has work to do and that he want to see the group be extra clear. He says he’s “rooting for her to succeed” and that “her success is the city’s success.”)

Whereas Shields’ rhetoric in each Louisville and Atlanta has been met with skepticism, others see her worldview as uncommon for a serious metropolis’s police chief. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a more progressive chief in 2021 America than Erika Shields,” says Dabney, the Georgia State College prison justice division chair. “I don’t think the city of Louisville could have made a better choice.” 

Councilwoman Jessica Inexperienced, who represents west Louisville’s District 1 and who was on the board that interviewed and chosen Shields, was impressed by her potential to speak about race and the historical past of policing. “It was refreshing to have a chief speak about these issues without biting their tongue, who had real-world and life experiences,” Inexperienced says. “She just rose to the top at every level of the interviews. She was sort of three levels above every other person that we interviewed.”

Metro Council president and former Louisville police officer David James additionally was on the committee, and when he noticed Shields’ résumé and bio, the very first thing he considered was how she went into the streets to speak to Atlanta protesters. “I thought: She’s got that much going for her because Steve Conrad certainly never would have done that,” he says. Throughout the interviews to search out LMPD’s subsequent chief, James says, “Everyone picked Shields as No. 1. She was just saying all the right things.” James recollects how Shields mentioned the historical past of policing and the way policing pertains to African Individuals and different individuals of coloration — one thing he says not one of the different candidates did. “She recognized it, she knew it — I knew it because I was a police officer and I’m Black,” James says. “The fact that she recognized that and knew that spoke volumes to me.”

Chuck Wexler, govt director of the Police Government Analysis Discussion board — the agency town employed to search out candidates — says Shields “speaks her mind, and she calls it as she sees it. She doesn’t suffer fools.” Wexler says he has seen different chiefs deal with incidents much like the killing of Rayshard Brooks “badly” by withholding movies, being misleading and shifting blame. After Brooks’s killing, Wexler says, “When we talked, she said: ‘I need to own this.’”

Inexperienced says, “Listen to her. She’s talking differently than any chief we have ever had.”

The quantity of homicides on the whiteboard retains climbing greater. It’s at 85 right now, June 11, however will quickly hit 100. At present is the day Kentucky is lifting coronavirus restrictions. Vacationers are again downtown, wandering out the doorways of 21c looking for lunches and posing with the enormous baseball bat in entrance of the Slugger Museum. Life in Louisville feels a bit prefer it’s returning to regular — prefer it was earlier than the pandemic. However issues aren’t regular; Louisville is on tempo to shatter its murder document, set simply final yr at 173. Earlier than 2020, essentially the most homicides Louisville had seen was 117 in 2016. By late-September, Louisville could have seen not less than 151 prison homicides this yr, with 21 of the victims beneath 18.

Just a few blocks away from the bustle of Museum Row, LMPD headquarters is mausoleum quiet. The halls really feel like an elementary college whereas class is in session. The entrance door to the Brutalist constructing is locked, so I’m let in from an alley. Inside, Shields sits on the finish of a convention desk in her wood-paneled workplace with a laptop computer and a plastic Nalgene water bottle. Binders and information are piled up round her. Atop the stack sits the e-book “Life Behind the Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky, 1865-1930.”

So far as officers go, Shields is straightforward to speak to. She may be surprisingly candid, particularly for someone within the sometimes guarded world of police. She curses. She smiles barely when listening. She appears extra more likely to admit issues than to double down, or dance round and deny, as is so usually the case with officers. She’s observant, calling me out when my eyes transfer to her workplace whiteboard, which incorporates the variety of homicides and what appears like an inventory of investigations.

Over the 5 months I spent reporting on this story, LMPD was always in C-J headlines: LMPD chief pushes for police on campuses – JCPS board member calls remarks ‘reprehensible’; Rep. Scott information swimsuit on LMPD officers – Daughter, activist additionally suing over protest arrest; ‘I want justice,’ protester says – Arrest video reveals man being punched by officer; Will wage hike hold cops on the drive? Smaller departments supply extra pay, much less stress. On this present day in June, Shields has been on the drive for nearly 5 months, sufficient time to settle in, so I ask her about her hardest day thus far. She isn’t direct now, saying it’s simpler to ask her about what day hasn’t been troublesome. “I’ve struggled with the number of children who are being shot and killed or who are shooting and killing. That for me as a whole is what’s weighing the heaviest,” she says. 

To sluggish the bloodshed, Shields says, first officers want to start out being proactive once more — one thing she says they’ve been reluctant to do, even earlier than the killing of Breonna Taylor, for concern of changing into the subsequent viral face of police misconduct. Demetrius Latham, a former officer who left LMPD earlier this yr and who has been a lecturer at U of L, says, “There is no benefit to you as a police officer to go out there and engage in proactive policing — no benefit whatsoever.” Then there’s the introduction of intelligence-led policing: figuring out the individuals and teams chargeable for driving violence within the metropolis and concentrating on them. Intently associated to that’s one thing known as group-violence intervention — basically speaking to individuals at a excessive danger of changing into a sufferer or a perpetrator. The technique sounds easy however is stuffed with pitfalls. “Proactive policing” — doing issues like making site visitors stops to make contact with the group and attempt to discover unlawful weapons — has been a serious supply of friction between the African American group and police. 

Whereas the killing of Breonna Taylor was the explanation for the 2020 protests, these protests have been additionally about racial disparities and inequities within the metropolis. The sensation that African Individuals have been focused when behind the wheel helped drive anger on the streets, and there was no scarcity of Black protesters who stated they’d been unfairly handled by the police. And it’s not only a feeling that the group was focused: A 2019 Courier-Journal evaluation of site visitors stops between 2016 and 2018 discovered that African Individuals, whereas constituting simply 20 p.c of the driving-age inhabitants, represented a 3rd of the stops and 57 p.c of searches. Whereas Black drivers have been extra more likely to be searched, contraband confirmed up solely 41 p.c of the time, whereas it confirmed up 72 p.c of the time when white drivers have been searched.

“Removing someone from the vehicle and searching them or the car should be the exception, not the norm,” says Shields, who added that cops have to clarify that they’re in search of unlawful weapons, not weed, and make sure that most site visitors stops end in “mostly positive” interactions with the group. Returning to that sort of policing requires cautious monitoring to ensure racial disparities don’t exist, she says. “If your division is 90 percent white people and I see that 80, 70 percent of your traffic stops are Black people, I can drill down and see, OK, who’s doing these traffic stops?” she says. “It only takes a couple employees to really make things go sideways.” 

Tim Findley, the protest chief and mayoral candidate, says, “When I hear proactive policing, I would ask: How is that different than stop-and-frisk? How do you deal with the fact that there may be officers out there who are racially profiling and now they can hide behind that notion of proactive policing?” Former interim chief Yvette Gentry, who served within the position for 3 months earlier than Shields took over in January, says site visitors stops are a necessary pillar to a proactive-policing technique. “The guns are getting there in cars. People are not necessarily walking down the street with guns,” she says. “Some of these scenes that we have, they’re firing 100, 200 shots. They’re coming in cars to do that.” 

Shields has began having senior officers — herself included — exit on patrols to guide by instance. However being proactive when brief 300 officers is troublesome, says Dave Mutchler, spokesperson for the River Metropolis Fraternal Order of Police, which represents practically all of LMPD’s roughly 1,000 sworn members. “We are undermanned to the point that we are going from call to call, from run to run, and those proactive measures that we can take in the violent parts of the city — that time simply doesn’t exist anymore,” he says. Gentry sees the officer scarcity as the one largest impediment dealing with the division. Whereas it’s a problem, she says it’s additionally a chance. “The people that sign up to do this job now are fully aware of the expectations; you can really set the tone for them,” she says. Having such a big chunk of the drive vacant — greater than 20 p.c — “is an opportunity,” she says, “to really select and shift and mold and cultivate the type of officers you want out there representing your agency.”

However recruiting and preserving officers is troublesome. Attitudes towards policing — and a stained fame for LMPD after years of criticism — may be off-putting for candidates. FOP members overwhelmingly shot down a proposed wage that will bump up pay. “The members listened to their chief say that the LMPD should be the highest paid police department in the state. The proposed agreement does not accomplish that goal,” the FOP wrote in a press release. At present, recruits in LMPD’s 26-week coaching academy earn just below $40,000, whereas graduates begin at about $50,000. The proposed contract would have boosted first-year pay to $51,000. The Mayor’s Workplace stated assured raises each two years would imply a recruit becoming a member of the drive now might count on to make $65,000 in two years’ time.

Demetrius Latham, the previous LMPD officer, says the drive will not be solely competing with different departments for officers but in addition with the non-public sector. For officers like him who joined LMPD after having a civilian job (he labored in insurance coverage and took a pay minimize to affix the drive), LMPD’s pay and advantages may be low and the lure to depart may be excessive. “You could go work in the private sector — you know, an insurance company, a factory even, a warehouse — and you can make $40,000, $45,000 and have decent benefits and nobody wants to hurt you for doing your job,” he says. “Postal workers are making good money delivering the mail and nobody wants to hurt the postal person unless they don’t have their checks on the first of the month.” 

Much less controversial than proactive policing is Group Violence Intervention, or GVI, a program that, when pioneered in Boston within the Nineteen Nineties, resulted within the “Boston Miracle” — a 63-percent drop in youth homicides and a 30-percent drop in general homicides in only one yr. In Louisville, the plan is two-pronged: to establish and goal members of gangs, whereas additionally having conversations with these concerned with or on the peripheries of violence to supply them with a possible escape route in order that they don’t find yourself locked up or lifeless. 

The thought is that the act of beginning a dialog — getting these concerned in crime to grasp they are often charged and arrested if they don’t seem to be killed by rivals first — can cut back violence. It’s also based mostly on the premise {that a} very small p.c of a metropolis’s inhabitants is chargeable for an awesome share of the violent crime. Principally: If you will get via to members of that group and get them to cease — both by coercing individuals or, in the event that they refuse to cease, by arresting them — violent crime will drop. 

In a July episode of On the Report, LMPD’s semi-regular podcast, officer Ivan Haygood, whom Shields says runs level on LMPD’s GVI program, stated his crew critiques deadly and non-fatal shootings to establish individuals who’ve a excessive chance of retaliating. Then they go discuss to them. “I’m coming to talk to you. And I’m coming to talk to you either at home, in the hospital or on the street,” he stated on the podcast. “We go to the hospital, and we talk to John. ‘John, how are you doing? First of all, how is your recovery?’ It’s a very simple and pointed conversation.”

Haygood added: “We find out what makes John go. Come to find out, John has a little girl. John still has his mom. John still has a wife. And I says: ‘Are they worth living for? Are they worth finding a different path?’ Because you can’t go back to the path (where) it’s either death or prison.”

To Gentry, the interim chief earlier than Shields, town’s failure to correctly put money into violence-prevention efforts — issues just like the Workplace for Secure and Wholesome Neighborhoods — has led town to its present stage of violence. “As a city over the past decade, we have half-heartedly funded a lot of the prevention efforts that could have put us in a better position than we are today with violent crime,” she says. “People talk about a path away from violence, but it has to be real.”

Shields does see limits to how a lot success these methods can have — partially due to what number of unlawful weapons are on the streets, a symptom of what she sees as overly lax gun legal guidelines in Southern states. “The gun laws make it hard because obviously when so many people can own guns legally, it allows for many stolen guns,” she says. “As a result, the volume of illegal guns is far greater than it is up north.” (Reporting by the Courier-Journal earlier this yr discovered that, between 2014 and 2019, practically 10,000 weapons have been reported stolen in Louisville and greater than 1,000 of these firearms have been recovered at crime scenes.)

Shields says one other roadblock is the judiciary, which she says releases violent offenders on low bonds. “I think, realistically, we’re in a place where judges don’t have much sympathy for police,” she says. In certainly one of her YouTube podcasts in September, Shields talked about a “broken system” the place individuals committing violence are handed “abysmally low bond, no bond (or) they’re put under house arrest. So the reality of it is, repeat violent offenders tend to get back out and right back in the game.” Each to me and on her podcast, Shields has highlighted the case of Laron Weston, a person police apprehended in south Louisville after he allegedly shot two ladies. Police say he later aimed his gun at officers as they moved in to arrest him. In a five-and-a-half-minute arraignment in July, Weston obtained a $10,000 bond by District Court docket Decide Anne Haynie. “How do you get your arms around violent crime when someone can shoot two women and be out, I don’t know, 12 hours later?” says Shields of the case, through which she claims LMPD needed to petition the feds to intervene and produce expenses so Weston wouldn’t be launched.

Haynie, the choose concerned, disputed Shields’ characterizations of the case, saying Weston already had a federal maintain on him and was by no means susceptible to being launched. Moreover, Weston was being positioned on residence incarceration, which Haynie says has confirmed to be a secure system. “Judges aren’t policy-makers. We have to apply what the statute says. We don’t make legislation. We don’t do any of that,” Haynie says. “If the police department has a concern about what judges are doing or about the statute, they need to take that to the legislators because they’re the ones that make the law.” Jefferson County’s chief public defender, Leo Smith, known as Shields’ criticisms of the judiciary “inappropriate, inaccurate and irresponsible. At best, the chief’s remarks are cynical, misinformed and misleading. At worst, they threaten the independence of the judiciary and compromise its integrity by attempting to undermine confidence in the courts and trying to politicize the judicial decision-making process.”

Regardless of the obstacles dealing with LMPD in combatting crime, deputy chief Gwinn-Villaroel says, “I do believe that we can see a decrease in homicides — I have this crazy faith. We have to, because we’re losing too many.”

On Fb in early September, LMPD considerably unexpectedly declared a level of victory. An LMPD e-newsletter posted to the Fb web page acknowledged that, on account of its new violent crime element — targeted on encouraging proactive policing and being lively within the metropolis’s deadliest 2nd and 4th Divisions within the West Finish and south Louisville — the tempo of violence within the metropolis was slowing. It cited a citywide “69% Reduction in the Rate of Homicides” (to not point out a 95-percent discount within the 2nd Division). However for those who observe murder numbers within the metropolis, the claims have been eyebrow-raising: The 19 homicides in August and 15 in July have been decrease than the year-leading 23 in June and 20 in Might, however these numbers aren’t indicative of a 69-percent drop. With a minimal of six homicides within the 2nd Division over July and August, in response to LMPD’s weekly murder experiences, a 95-percent discount there over a two-month interval appeared unlikely. It’s unclear how LMPD calculated the charges or what time-frame it was referring to. Nonetheless, on a podcast launched Sept. 8, Shields, with out citing any numbers, stated knowledge confirmed that there had been a “dramatic reduction in the rate of homicides” the place the violent crime element was lively. (LMPD didn’t reply to repeated requests for clarification on the claims. Whereas LMPD granted three interviews with Shields between Might and July, as this story’s publication neared spokespeople for the division wouldn’t reply any follow-up or fact-checking questions. WAVE-3 additionally reported that LMPD didn’t reply to makes an attempt searching for clarification to questions on the murder discount statistics.) 

Longtime anti-violence activist Christopher 2X, who heads the native group Recreation Changers, says LMPD’s statements concerning the discount within the murder price have left him “perplexed.” Even when homicides have been restricted to 10 per 30 days — which has not occurred but this yr — 2X factors out how that will nonetheless equal 120 homicides for the yr, greater than the outdated 2016 document of 117. The final time town noticed a month-to-month murder determine within the single digits was in April 2020, virtually 18 months in the past. “We are in territory we’ve never been before,” 2X says. “It gives no relief to safety in the community when we stay in double-digit homicides on a monthly basis.”

In late July throughout our final interview, at LMPD’s coaching academy close to Churchill Downs, I ask Shields about how native and nationwide tales involving LMPD nonetheless often have some model of the road “LMPD did not respond to requests for comment,” regardless of her emphasis on the significance of transparency.

“Like what? Gimme one?” she shoots again rapidly.

I come again with the case of Maj. Aubrey Gregory, the training-division commander demoted for utilizing racist language, and a brief April documentary launched by Vice that investigated the killing of David McAtee and supplied essentially the most intimate look thus far at what occurred on June 1, 2020. “I’m concerned if somebody comes to me who’s reputable. I can’t say I felt that with them,” Shields says of Vice. (Simply earlier than the McAtee documentary got here out, Vice correspondent Roberto Ferdman and his crew gained a prestigious George Polk award for tv reporting for his or her protection of the killing of Breonna Taylor.)

On Gregory’s demotion, she says LMPD had been instantly clear about what occurred by saying that the officer had used a “racially inflammatory term” and in addition concerning the self-discipline confronted. (On the time he was demoted, Shields stated he’d used “inappropriate and offensive language” — the racial nature of which was not revealed till a Metro Council assembly weeks later. Within the meantime, LMPD stored tightlipped about what had transpired.)

If listening to Shields discuss — how racial disparities exist in policing, how “defund the police” actually simply means more cash for social companies, how police tradition can flip poisonous — evoked a radically reworked LMPD, the chilly silence of not even a “no comment” from public-information officers evoked the outdated method of doing issues. 

Eight months after activist Hannah Drake posted that late-night tweet about how upset she was by the information of Shields’ hiring, she stays sad with town’s determination. “I will always feel like that was a slap in the face to Black people, people of color, white people — everybody — that were protesting against this,” she says. “And you bring in the very person who was in charge when somebody was shot in the back in Atlanta. It makes utterly no sense. Quite frankly, I don’t think that does well for the community, and I don’t think it did well for the police department.”

Within the days earlier than this yr’s Kentucky Derby, concrete obstacles blocked off the parking zone of the Kroger on Broadway, certainly one of two supermarkets in west Louisville, and close to the place David McAtee was killed a yr earlier than. The location of the obstacles compelled the Kroger to shut early. The remainder of town remained open as preparations for Louisville’s first actual Derby in two years have been underway. The location of the obstacles introduced swift anger, feeling to some as if LMPD was brazenly policing Black neighborhoods in a different way than their white counterparts. Shields would later say the early placement of the obstacles was the results of a “miscommunication.” 

However to Drake, the incident was indicative of Shields not being the one calling the pictures, indicative of, regardless of her phrases, LMPD persevering with its actions because it all the time has. “The fish rots from the head, and she’s not the head. It’s other people controlling your department,” Drake says.

To others, although, LMPD is altering. David James, the Metro Council president and former Louisville police officer, says LMPD was set on a course of basic change the second Shields took over. “It’s like night and day having a real police chief and a fake police chief,” he says. Underneath Conrad, James says, a tradition at LMPD emerged through which officers might do what they needed with little fear of repercussions. “It became a culture of: cover things up, don’t let people know about things,” he says. “And so now, when you hear reporters or media or just people talking about this transparency issue with the police department, that’s because Conrad was the main transparency obliterator. Because he didn’t want the public and the media to find out about the things that were going wrong (with) the police department.” James provides that altering that tradition might take years.

Showing in entrance of Metro Council’s Public Security Committee on Sept. 15, Shields careworn that LMPD needed to change — that it had no choice however to alter. “Do you want to be a part of an organization that is continually reading about its employees indicted?” she requested. “Reading about the DOJ coming in to turn everything upside down? You’ve done it your way. Guess what? It’s not worked.”

She went on: “It’s a mistake to think — in any law-enforcement agency — that you can dig in your heels, have it be the way it was 20, 25 years ago and you’re going to be unscathed. The world’s moved on past you years ago. And that’s why law enforcement’s in the space it’s in. The world’s moved past us and we’re still back in the wooden bleachers.”


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