Mayor Fischer announces Erika Shields will be new Chief of Louisville Metro Police
‘Experienced, progressive, reform-minded leader’ was unanimous choice of diverse interview panel; will be sworn in January 19th
Mayor Greg Fischer today announced former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields as the new Chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department, saying she has all the qualities that city leaders, community residents and rank-and-file described as key for leading the department into a new era.
“Erika Shields is an experienced, progressive, reform-minded leader, a well-respected visionary both locally and nationally for her ability to build strong and legitimate community and police relations; and strategize, execute, and produce results,” Mayor Fischer said. “She believes in the rules of policing but also knows when to revise them. She is skilled but open to new ideas, tough and undaunted by challenge. 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.”
Shields said: “I am honored to be selected for this important position at this important time. 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.”
Shields cited her 25 years of experience as a police officer in Atlanta, where “the population is majority Black, the Department is majority Black, and I served under Black Police Chiefs and Mayors,” and said, “As a career cop there, what this meant to me is that the ties between a history of institutional racism and policing amounted to more than mere training blocks on implicit bias or policies prohibiting discrimination. Instead, that history – and the very real challenges that remain even today for people of color – had to be a consideration in every aspect of police operations if we were going to attain success in the communities that were most in need of our services.”
Shields will be sworn in as Chief on January 19, 2021. Former LMPD assistant chief Yvette Gentry will continue to serve as Chief in the interim.
Gentry said today, “As a lifelong Louisville citizen, I look forward to seeing our city in a better place. Louisville has great people, with big hearts and endless potential. I will soon pass the baton on to Chief Shields in the best position that I can. LMPD has great men and women who need and deserve good leadership. I know she will do what she believes to be right and move the department forward to better days.”
Shields has long been an advocate for 21st Century policing – with a focus on reducing crime while strengthening trust and collaboration with residents and ensuring accountability among officers.
Shields’ bio affirms that she is committed to developing a culture of technology, innovation, excellence and transparency in policing. And in Atlanta, she worked to reduce violent crime in part by taking repeat offenders and stolen guns off the streets. She also worked closely with judicial leaders to advocate for stronger sentencing for those who commit violent felonies. And she championed a pre-arrest diversion program that allowed officers to direct suspects living in extreme poverty or with mental health issues into social services before sending them to jail.
She outlined her leadership style in a TED talk in 2019, stressing the importance of listening to, and understanding the life situations of those outside “your circle,” and noting that “if you’re going to be a driver of change, you need to be acutely aware of what’s around you.”
Shields began her law enforcement career in 1995, working as a Patrol Officer before rising to supervisory roles. She is an active member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from Webster University and a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Saint Leo University.
Shields was among more than two dozen people who applied for the Louisville Chief’s position. The search for a new Chief was conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a non-profit Washington, D.C.-based police research organization acclaimed for guiding cities across the country on fundamental issues, such as reducing police use of force; developing community policing and problem-oriented policing; using technology to deliver police services to the community; and evaluating crime reduction strategies.
The hiring process included:
Resident input. Before posting the job description and soliciting applications, the city and PERF received input from more than 10,000 people who responded to an online survey of qualities they thought a new chief should have, as well as input that came through nearly two dozen listening sessions with various focus groups throughout the community.
These meetings, which were held both in person and virtually, included a variety of constituencies: Metro Council members and other elected officials, the business community, faith leaders, the international community, activist groups and LMPD employees.
In both the survey and the listening sessions, participants were asked what qualities are most important for a new chief; what a new chief must accomplish over the next 2-3 years; and suggestions for improving police services. Those qualities were included in the job posting.
The community was also invited to suggest interview questions for the candidates, which generally focused on steps they would take to restore confidence of citizens, especially those traditionally marginalized, in the police.
Interview panel. In October, Mayor Fischer announced the names of eight people to serve on the interview panel for a new chief, charged with conducting a detailed screening of candidates and recommending top choices.
Panelists were: Kendall Boyd, LMG Chief Equity Officer; Jessica Green, who chairs the Metro Council Public Safety Committee; LMG Public Safety Chief Amy Hess; Council President David James; LMG Chief of Community Building, Vincent James; James Peden, who is co-chair of the Council Public Safety Committee; Carmen Moreno-Rivera, who was then LMG Chief of Performance Improvement; and community representative Sharon VanCleave, a Jefferson County Public School teacher.
The panelists chose Shields unanimously as their top pick and recommended her to the Mayor.
“This is a big day. A day that has culminated from a tremendous amount of work, deliberation, and input,” said Chief Hess. “We are fortunate to have partnered with PERF on this project and I am proud of the thorough, objective, and conscientious work of this panel to find the right leader for our police department, and for our city, as we move forward.”
President James said he was impressed with the selection process and the leadership of Hess and the assistance of PERF, and added that, “The committee unanimously chose Chief Shields due to her proven track record of equitable and inclusive leadership. I’m so glad Mayor Fischer followed the recommendation of the selection committee.”
Comments from other panel members:
Chief Boyd: “I am extremely grateful to have been part of the selection process for a new police chief and excited about the choice. It’s my sincerest desire that the new police chief will help bridge the gap between LMPD and the Louisville Metro community, will provide for and enhance the well-being of our brave police officers and help ensure that our community remains safe.”
Councilwoman Green: “I am pleased to welcome our new Chief to Louisville. After an extensive search, and a unanimous recommendation by the search committee, we are welcoming a chief with extensive and progressive leadership experience. I know that our Chief is ready to get to work in this city and will work hard to continue to build positive relationships between law enforcement and community members.”
Chief James: “I’m encouraged about the direction our city is headed in selecting Erika Shields as our new Chief of Police. She has the experience, background and understanding that our community is uniquely positioned to demonstrate to the country how to build police legitimacy while allowing healing to take place simultaneously.”
Moreno-Rivera: "Participating on the Chief interview panel was important to me because I had previously facilitated listening sessions and reviewed all survey results from the community and LMPD employees. I made sure to base my discussion and evaluation of candidates on that feedback and feel that Chief Shields will be able to meet our city’s needs and expectations."
Councilman Peden: “I would like to welcome Chief Shields to Louisville, she has quite a load of work ahead of her. It will be a challenge to regain the trust of both the police force and the citizens of Louisville, but I feel she was the best candidate to do this.”
Van Cleave: "It is with great honor that I was awarded the opportunity to serve as the community representative on the interview panel. I feel highly confident that coupled with solicited input from elected leaders, the community, and the police department that we have selected the best individual to serve as the next chief of police to implement 21st Century policing principles within multi-cultural communities for our great city."
Shields replaces former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, who was relieved of his duties on June 1. Former Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder served as interim chief until October, when he retired from LMPD. Gentry has served in the interim role since then.
Mayor Fischer thanked both Schroeder and Gentry for their leadership. During a retirement event in September, he described Schroeder as “an indispensable part of Louisville’s public safety work” for more than two decades.
And today, he praised Gentry for her commitment to the department and to the city.
“Chief Gentry, at one of the city’s lowest points, you stood up, you stepped forward, and you help lead Louisville out of the darkness and toward the light,” Mayor Fischer said. “God bless you and your family – we are all better for your service.”