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‘JCPS has to have its own police department, no two ways about it,’ LMPD chief says

Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:43 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Hours after the city’s latest instance of gun violence claimed the life of Louisville teenager at a school bus stop, LMPD Chief Erika Shields did not pull any punches.

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”We can’t sit here with our thumbs up our a**, do nothing different and think we won’t be back at this podium,” Shields said.

Shields made the remarks at a news conference attended by multiple city leaders, including Mayor Greg Fischer and JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio.

“I am going to bang this drum loudly,” Shields said. “But I am going to be leaning in on the Board of Education. JCPS has to have its own police department. There’s no two ways about it.

”Without having dedicated school resource officers,” Shields continued, “who are trained in identifying gang members, identifying potential conflict, having that constant ongoing communication, we are lacking critical intelligence.”

Shields described a process where community gang members form new gangs in schools, and raised the question of possible gang activity at Eastern High School, the school attended by Wednesday’s shooting victims.

Tyree Smith, 16, died at a hospital after he was shot. A 13-year-old boy also was shot, and a 14-year-old girl suffered what police called a “graze wound.” Both are expected to be OK.

Shields said four juveniles arrested last weekend for a series of carjackings also went to Eastern, but she said the teen killed in Wednesday’s drive-by shooting was not connected.

”Is there something afoot at Eastern High School? Yes,” Shields said. “Do we owe it to the teachers and students to know what is going on there? We have to empower Dr. Pollio so he has a fighting chance.”

Pollio, however, said the roots of the problem lie outside schools.

”I’m not going to say that ... the problem is in Eastern High School,” Pollio said. “I mean let’s be honest. We can’t separate community from what happens in our schools.”

Pollio said JCPS was working on creating an in-house security team before the pandemic hit. He added that security is something that definitely will be discussed going forward. Pollio could not say if such a change would have prevented what happened Wednesday.

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