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Gun violence, morale, diversity: Erika Shields talks goals for first 100 days as Louisville police chief

As LMPD's fourth chief in just 12 months, Shields will have work to gain the trust of officers and community members.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Metro’s new police Chief Erika Shields answered questions Monday morning on her plan for the first 100 days as LMPD's leader.

Shields said a major focus is gun violence. Through the first 25 days in January, there have been more than a dozen murders in Louisville.

“It's troubling, and it's not something we can allow to continue further,” Sheilds said.

Her plan to address the violence includes getting illegal guns off the street.

“That has to be the central mission, and that's a huge part of what I want to get into the weeds this week with the commanders, is how are we staffing and what are we pursuing," Shield said.

Shields was also asked about how she plans to boost morale within LMPD, as officers have had to deal with a plethora of shake-ups when it comes to leadership. She is the city's fourth chief in less than 12 months.

"I want them to come to work wanting to come to work, and feeling respected, because the reality is, they will perform better," Shields said.

Part of ensuring officers are happy is making sure they are paid what she believes is necessary.

“LMPD has to figure out a way, as a city, to ensure that these employees are the highest paid in the state,” Shields said. “I come at it as a team effort. We need to do what we need to do to make sure that this city is taken care of."

In addition to pay, Shields spotlighted communication — making sure officers are heard.

"When people are down, it's hard to see the light, and my goal is, 'Listen, there is a light. Walk with me, we're going to get there,'" Shields said. "It's been an emotional time for this city, I think this city is tired, and I really hope that as we move forward, we can move forward collectively and have a positive energy."

Shields said she will work to get the trust of officers, and of the community.

“It's been difficult to navigate and what I will say is I think there are some things I'll only be able to accomplish when given time," Shields said.

Diversity and inclusion will also be a priority in 2021. Shields said LMPD should have around 10-13% more Black employees to better represent the city's demographics.

“The city is about 25% to my understanding, and the department is about 13%. That's short," Shields said.

As for Jefferson Square Park, a place that has become the heart of Louisville's fight for racial justice, Shields said she does not have plans to address its future at this time.

"Obviously Jefferson Square needs to be handled with a huge amount of respect,” Shields said. “It's become central to the fight for civil rights and inequitable treatment. I have no plans other than to listen and work with others to figure out what is an acceptable future for the park."

City leaders, residents and even department members have pushed for more transparency from LMPD in recent years. Shields told WHAS11 what that word means to her.

"You own it. When you screw up as a law enforcement agency, the damage is done. You only compound the issue if you try to massage it and skirt around it," Shields said. "So it's one, this is what happened, and two, truly holding people accountable.”

Mayor Greg Fischer said Shields was the "unanimous choice" to become the department's new chief when her position was announced earlier this month.

Shields has worked in law enforcement for 25 years, first joining the Atlanta Police Department in 1995 as a patrol officer. She rose through the ranks, eventually commanding APD's public standards unit and developing the department's policies.

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