Erika Shields, Atlanta Police Chief of 3 years, resigns after a white officer fatally shoots a black man.
What We Know:
- Shields, a former stockbroker in Boston, moved to Atlanta in 1994 and climbed the ranks of the Atlanta force after patrolling some of the city’s most impoverished communities. She was named chief in 2016, becoming the second woman and only openly LGBT person to lead the department. Shields successfully fought for pay raises for officers and leaned on programs that prioritized use of social services over imprisonment.
- In January, Shields suspended police car chases, arguing that the risk to the officer, everyday people and the suspect outweighed the benefit of apprehension. Shields then sent a trove of data on Atlanta police chases over the past three years to the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit that studies policing techniques and trains law enforcement leaders, an action done by none of the prior police chiefs.
- But as racial tensions rise, police brutality has become a major issue in the city of Atlanta and all over the nation. Previous outcries for Shields’ resignation came after two college students were tasered and forcibly removed from their car. Cries came to a high rise when the death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks made headlines in Atlanta, Georgia Friday, June 12, 2020.
- Police were called to the nearing Wendy’s with reports that Brooks had fallen asleep in the drive-thru. Officers attempted to take Brooks into custody after a failed sobriety test but struggled with Brooks on the ground. Captured video from Wendy’s surveillance and bystanders, shows Brooks breaking free and escaping while aiming what was identified as a taser. Brooks continued to run and aim the taser at pursuing officers. Video footage then showed officer Rolfe aiming and firing his gun, and Brooks hitting the ground.
- Following the death of Brooks, Police Chief Erika Shields decided to resign. Shields said in a statement, that she stepped aside, “for the community to build trust between law enforcement and the community it serves”. The police executive research director Chuck Wexler, stated that from a private conversation with Shields she, “just felt like this was the right thing to do, to step down, that it might help quell the anger in some ways if by her taking responsibility and stepping down.”
- Brooks death followed weeks of protesting for the fatal shooting of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The death of Brooks fueled the already blazing fire of police brutality. As the death of Brooks was released, many felt as though Shields resigning wasn’t enough. Protestors set out to the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot, and burned it to the ground, while other demonstrator’s marched on interstate-75 demanding that Officer Rolfe be fired.
HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!
The @Wendys where #RaychardBrooks was shot and killed is still burning.@wsbtv pic.twitter.com/aohU0qJmaG
— Audrey Washington (@AudreyWSBTV) June 14, 2020
- Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stated Saturday that Shields would not be fired but would be reassigned to a different position. Bottoms also stated that Shields was to be replaced by Deputy Chief Rodney Bryant. It was also announced that Officer Rolfe would be fired for the murder of Brooks.
As Atlanta makes strides to overcome these past chaotic weeks, The removal Police Chief Shields and the call for police reform has made many feel like there’s a glimpse of what can be called progression.