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'It has been broken for years.' | Chief Shields discusses future of LMPD

Chief Shields said there is a lack of diversity within the department, a lack of proactive policing, and no supervision or accountability.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Today, LMPD Chief Erika Shields sat in on the April meeting of the Louisville Forum. There, she engaged in a moderated discussion led by USA Today, National Political Correspondent Phillip M. Bailey on the future of policing within LMPD. 

Prior to her swearing-in ceremony on January 19, Shields said she understood LMPD had issues. She said there is a lack of diversity within the department, a lack of proactive policing, and no supervision or accountability. 

"It has to be rebuilt. It has been broken for years and it hit a tipping point with Breonna Taylor," she said. 

Shields arrived right around the time Hillard Heintze conducted a top to bottom review of the department. That review had two big takeaways--the department lacks community trust and has a severe morale issue. 

Shields has policed for over 25 years, and she said there is no denying there is a level of racial profiling that goes on in policing. Shields said she recognizes that everyone has their own biases and prejudices but she said her job is to make sure officers don't let that impact how they police. 

Right now, Shields said within the department there is a fear of backlash. On Monday night, a caravan gathered protesting in the name of Daunte Wright, 20, an unarmed Black man who was killed by police during a traffic stop in Minneapolis. 

Shields said those that gathered should have been arrested. 

"Someone should have gone to jail. They were running in the streets, they were throwing lawn furniture in the streets," she said. 

Shields said the supervisors failed that night. "They are reluctant to become engaged for fear that they are going to come under criticism." 

According to Shields, police departments across the country have had issues with supervision, accountability, and discipline. That is something she is working to change.

When pressed about LMPD's handling of homicides in Louisville, Shields said it boils down to two issues -- a lack of proactive policing and a lack of economic development. She mentioned the "9th Street Divide" and said it was not a figurative statement, it was true. 

One of her main focuses is getting guns off the street, and one of the departments she has changed is the Criminal Interdiction Division. She said she has replaced all leadership within that department. 

According to LMPD, as of April 11, Louisville has had 51 homicides in 2021. Right now 14 of the 51 have been cleared, a 27.45% rate.  At this time last year, Louisville had 28 homicides with 11 being cleared, a 39.29% rate. 

Shields said LMPD cannot solve the cases at a fast enough rate due to staffing shortage and lack of cooperation between shooting victims. 

"People believe if they cooperate on a shooting where they were not killed, then they will be killed," she said. 

Shields said right now investigators are working caseloads that are 30-40% higher than what they should be and the department is short-staffed by about 250 people. 

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