LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As Erika Shields takes over the top post at the Louisville Metro Police Department, a community that still has a tenuous relationship with law enforcement is watching to see how she will approach her new job as police chief.
"We are still in a healing process in Louisville, so we need somebody who's going to be able to come in and walk beside us so that the healing process will take place," Tonya Trumbo, a resident of West Louisville, said.
Trumbo said she had hoped for a Black police chief that could better identify with many of the issues concerning discrimination and systemic racism that have impacted Black citizens in Louisville.
"There is a dynamic, a system of racism, that we've been fighting for a long time, that sometimes a white chief may not understand," she said.
But Trumbo and others said they are open to giving Shields a chance to prove herself to the Louisville community.
"We're not coming in with a negative vibe," she said. "We wanted what we wanted. However, we're going to support her until she shows us otherwise."
Shields arrives in Louisville after serving for more than three years as the police chief in Atlanta. She resigned last summer after the death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man shot and killed by an Atlanta Police officer. Her history has led some to question whether she will be able to help heal a Louisville community that is still feeling the effects of the death of Breonna Taylor.
"Why didn't you stay there and help them to heal? You were already there," Trumbo said. "That was a place you already had a reputation and you have rapport with those people there, so why didn't you stay and help them to heal instead of coming here?"
"I know we have the negative of her coming from Atlanta and what happened down there and everything, but yet you got to give her the opportunity," Ken Condra said.
Several people said it will be important for Shields to emphasize transparency at LMPD and to make herself accessible to people in the community. They said it will be important for her to listen to the community's concerns and to come up with a plan to address issues of systemic racism and public safety.