By Maria Saporta
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has named Deputy Police Chief Erika Shields as the city’s next police chief.
The announcement was made Thursday morning at City Hall as the mayor thanked Police Chief George Turner, who announced Wednesday his plan to retire at the end of the year after 35 years with the department.
Reed said he decided to not have a formal search for police chief because he felt the talent for the job existed within the department – thanks to the leadership that Turner had provided the city.
“I know I had complete confidence in Chief Turner,” Reed said. “My preference would have been for him to be with me till the very end. We did not have 90 days to spend on a search. And we should be training and hiring from within.”
The mayor said that all the finalists he considered were with APD, and he added that Shields stood out among several strong candidates.
“I’m very fortunate I have been here almost 21 years,” Shields said, adding that she has been closely studying Turner’s leadership for the last eight years. “I know the APD is made up of exceptional men and women.”
Turner was asked about APD’s relationship with the gay and lesbian community in Atlanta over his tenure, and how that would continue.
“We started in a very tough place,” Turner said, recalling the raid on the Eagle. “We made some horrible decisions.”
But then Turner added that they worked hard to create “relationships with the LGBT community. I’m confident Chief Shields will continue that work.”
Shields agreed – saying: “I think we have made enormous inroads here.”
When asked what kind of department she would run, Shields was quick to say that Turner would be the chief until the end of the year.
On his end, Turner said he would be available even after he leaves the city. “We’re great friends,” he said. “Erika and I go back a long ways – since November 2009. I hope she will continue to call.”
When asked if she had any concerns being a women in that job, Shields seemed to share her boss’ love for Atlanta.
“Atlanta is a terrific spot to police if you are any sort of minority,” she said. “Because of Atlanta’s government and the police department, you are afforded opportunities because the city has a higher standard. I fully believe my career has benefitted enormously. I don’t think the challenges will be gender-based but criminally-based.”