LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields has been named the new chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Mayor Greg Fischer made the announcement on Wednesday, saying Shields has all the qualities that city leaders, community residents and rank-and-file described as key for leading the department into a new era.
Shields will be the first woman to permanently lead the department.
“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,” 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 the 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 Jan. 19. Former LMPD assistant chief Yvette Gentry will continue to serve as chief in the interim.
“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,” Gentry said. “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’s 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.