Concerns arise over new LMPD chief’s involvement in Atlanta federal investigation
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A former employee of the Atlanta Police Department, working under Erika Shields, claims Shields pressured her to sign an invoice that is now the subject of a state and federal investigation, according to reports by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations told WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters that Shields, the former Atlanta chief who was just named LMPD’s chief last week, is not a subject in the ongoing investigation.
But while Shields is not a focus of that agency’s criminal investigation, leaders in Louisville want to know more about the former employee’s claims.
“It doesn’t make you feel confident,” Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds told WAVE 3 News.
The investigation is focused on the former Fulton County District Attorney, Paul Howard. He is accused of pocketing more than $200,000 of taxpayer money intended for a project aimed at reducing violence.
According to the report by the AJC, in conjunction with Channel 2 Action News, Shields was the deputy chief in charge of the police department’s finances at the time. Her name appears on one of two $125,000 invoices from 2014 and 2016, they reported.
Shields has publicly told Atlanta media that she was not aware of any impropriety, but regretted that the department was involved at all.
She has been questioned and has cooperated with the investigation, the GBI told WAVE 3 News. The FBI and the US Department of Justice also are involved. The FBI declined to comment about Shields or its investigation.
According to records obtained by the AJC, the then-business manager for the Atlanta Police Department, Tracy Woodard, signed one of the invoices in 2014. Woodard told the AJC she signed it because Shields, the then-deputy chief, pressured her to do so. Woodard told the newspaper she “feared losing her job” if she didn’t sign it.
“Everything was done under duress,” Woodard was quoted by the AJC.
“Imagine the baggage that we’re now going to have to deal with coming from Atlanta,” Reynolds said, adding that she also has concerns about Shields’ handling of other officer-involved incidents, including last year’s deadly shooting of Rayshard Brooks.
LMPD officers and the Fraternal Order of Police also have voiced their concerns about Shields.
“Be on notice that we don’t want those same things,” Reynolds said. “We don’t want another (former LMPD Chief) Steve Conrad.”
Reynolds said she wants to know if the claims by Woodard were properly vetted by the city.
“Maybe the union and the community should sit down together and pick the police chief,” Reynolds said.
According to open records requests filed by WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters, Shields did not receive any disciplines by the Atlanta Police Department over the matter.
Howard has denied receiving any funds for personal gain. He is no longer Fulton County’s district attorney after losing an election, but he is part of another investigation by Georgia’s ethics commission.
A spokesperson for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office, Jessica Wethington, said they are aware of the investigation.
“In May 2020, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations began an investigation into allegations from 2012 and 2014 that the city’s former DA had misused city funds dedicated for crime related programs,” Wethington stated. “One of the many invoices under review listed Chief Shields’ name. She has spoken to the GBI and FBI – as a witness – stating that she had no familiarity with the matter.”
Louisville Metro Council President David James, who was on the committee to help secure a new chief, told WAVE 3 News he was not aware of Shields’ involvement in Howard’s case, but that it does not change his recommendation.
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