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Former Atlanta Police Chief To Lead Louisville, Ky., Department


Well, we have reporters tracking every thread of that still-developing story at the Capitol. But we want to work in a little bit of other news too, including this. Louisville has a new police chief. City leaders there hope the hiring of former Atlanta police chief Erika Shields will help to restore hope and trust. But Shields comes to the job after a controversial police killing in her old department, which led to her resignation. Amina Elahi of member station WFPL in Louisville reports.

AMINA ELAHI, BYLINE: It didn't take long for the questions to begin once Erika Shields was named as the new Louisville police chief. People wondered why the city chose her to be its top law enforcement officer when she lost her job after the killing of Rayshard Brooks. He was a Black motorist who was shot in June by an Atlanta officer after falling asleep in a fast-food drive-through.

In Louisville, Breonna Taylor's death remains a source of pain and distrust. To Pastor Timothy Findley Jr., the choice of Shields is tone-deaf and demonstrates a lack of empathy from city leaders as residents continue to seek healing after Taylor's killing.

TIMOTHY FINDLEY JR: It just reinforces what many, many people, especially in the Black community, we feel, regarding our leadership; that they are insensitive. And there is a lack of empathy towards Black citizens.

ELAHI: Findley says city leaders are asking residents to trust their decision-making, but he says they haven't done enough to earn that trust. And he says Shields' hiring does not set the stage for community healing. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who chose Shields based on the unanimous recommendation of eight handpicked elected officials, praised her professional 25-year record with the Atlanta Police Department and her decision to resign the day after Rayshard Brooks was killed by an officer.


GREG FISCHER: When tragedy happened in her city, she put her city before herself, stepping down so she would not be a distraction as her community worked to heal.

ELAHI: Shields, too, recognized a need for communities in Louisville and across the country to recover and come together after a year of traumatic police shootings of Black people. But she also said she sees opportunity.


ERIKA SHIELDS: Louisville and LMPD have the opportunity to get this right and to create a model for other cities to follow.

ELAHI: Elected officials appealed to the public to give Shields a chance to prove she can create that model. She will be the fourth police chief to lead the department since Breonna Taylor's killing last March. Louisville residents will be watching closely to see whether she delivers.

For NPR News, I'm Amina Elahi in Louisville.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Amina Elahi

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