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'This doesn't happen to white people' | New LMPD chief talks Breonna Taylor case, calls on policing equity

'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.'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — New Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields will face challenges when she steps into her new role Jan. 19 as she's about to lead a city that has dealt with months of racial injustice protests and a record-breaking year of homicides.

At Wednesday's news conference, Shields said her track record should speak for itself. 

"My time with Atlanta Police Department positions me to understand the needs of some of the communities who feel most removed from LMPD," Shields said. 

Shields said she worked for a police department in Atlanta with majority Black officers and under leadership of Black mayors and police chiefs, and said Louisville was the only city she was interested in to lead as the top cop.

"The environment fostered me an understanding of the ties between institutional racism and policing," Shields said. "I understand that there is much healing to do across the country and here in Louisville."

Her goals include bringing morale back to the police department, curbing the gun violence, and improving police and community relations — something that's been hard to bridge after law-enforcement shootings of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee.

Shields resigned from her role as Atlanta's police chief after three and half years following the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy's parking lot in June 2020.

She addressed a question at the news conference, commenting that the police shootings of Taylor and Brooks are "not that similar."

"Breonna Taylor was at home in her apartment…and she ends up dead. That didn't have to happen," Shields said. "This is where it's race reckoning. This doesn't happen to white people, it just doesn't."  

Shields echoed a message the city of Louisville has not heard from police leadership since McAtee's and Taylor's deadly shootings occurred. She shared what she wants to see change.

"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 said. "And LMPD is by no means alone in this it's just the police culture."

Following her announcement, the River City FOP said that while they were "cautiously optimistic" about the appointment of Shields, some of the comments made during her announcement have already caused many members to "lose faith in her ability to improve this department." They did not clarify what statements.

Still, the FOP said it is willing to work with Shields to develop a strong relationship within LMPD.

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