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Shields says ‘miscommunication’ with barricades led to early closure of west Louisville Kroger

Published: May. 12, 2021 at 12:42 AM EDT
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Shields says ‘miscommunication’ with barricades, led to early closure of west Louisville Kroger
Shields says ‘miscommunication’ with barricades, led to early closure of west Louisville Kroger(WAVE 3)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A “miscommunication” with the city’s public works department led to the early closure of a west Louisville Kroger, according to Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields.

Shields appeared Tuesday before Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee at the request of committee members.

During a special discussion, Shields was asked to explain why the entrances to a Kroger on South 28th Street and West Broadway were blocked with concrete barricades, the evening of April 30, which was the day of Kentucky Oaks.

“Obviously, it was my first Derby so I was relying on much of the feedback from many of you, the police department, and the community,” she said. “The idea was to allow for the traffic and the cruising and for it not to be a police state.”

Shields said there was a “strong” desire for people in the area to “cruise,” a tradition often seen at the same time as the Kentucky Derby. She explained the barricades served multiple purposes, like mitigating the traffic and safety issues seen in years past and reducing the need for officers in the area as it was not a “wanted visual.”

“We were told by multiple individuals that if police were on every corner, that would be like locking the place down and being more of a police state,” she said. “What we did was we had people nearby if there were incidents that needed responding to but we had them out of sight with the hopes that things would be more of a festival of an enjoyable atmosphere.”

However, Shields took responsibility for a “miscommunication” about the barricades with Louisville Public Works that ultimately blocked access to a shopping center, which includes a Kroger.

Shields noted the Kroger on West Broadway “historically” closes early on Kentucky Derby weekend; however, the store made its own decision to close earlier than anticipated because of the barricades on April 30.

The same day, LMPD also barricaded Dino’s Food Mart.

“When we had indicated that we would really like the barricades to go out Friday around 7 at night, we didn’t take into account that meant for them [Kroger] they would have to close at 5,” she said.

Following that error, Shields said LMPD did not use barricades as they had planned that Saturday.

“This is the third time we’re hearing confusion with public works… We’ve got get some sort of better communication with the police department and public works that we stop having confusion that results in problems,” committee chairman Brent Ackerson said.

In the meeting, multiple council members shared their frustration of not being notified before the barricades went up.

“It was a very stressful evening, trying to give people answers that kept calling and wanting to know what was going on when we knew absolutely nothing,” council member Donna Purvis said.

Purvis and other council members also questioned Shields about which members’ “feedback” led to the decision to use barricades.

“What council members, what peers of mine, would reach out to you about 28th and Broadway, if there were not west end Metro Council members,” Purvis asked. “Did you get any directives from any council members that do not represent west end districts that talked to you about controlling traffic on West Broadway, Kroger parking lot? That’s all I’m asking.”

When pressed by council member Jecorey Arthur on which council members or Mayor’s office staff knew about the barricades, Shields refused to name the people she spoke to.

“I don’t play these games, y’all are so hell-bent on [pointing the finger] at people and I’m not doing that, you all work with one another, I would hope some of these folks would step up,” she said. “I want to be successful as a city, and this tit for tat is not going to get us there.”

Shields, later called for council members to work with LMPD on how to handle safety at future events, citing traffic issues and a shooting later that weekend when barricades were not used.

During the meeting, Shields was also asked about the existence of a “Derby Book” that would include LMPD’s safety plans around the event. Shields clarified there was a document that contained safety protocols for the Kentucky Derby though she would not make the document public and said an open records request may yield a heavily redacted document due to safety concerns.

Shields said LMPD is in the process of hiring a communications director and will begin planning for the 2022 Kentucky Derby as early as next month.

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