Police chiefs are finding job security is hard to come by

By Shaila Dewan

Erika Shields was not your old-line, law-and-order police chief. She came into office in Atlanta in 2017 promising to clean up the “mess we created in the judicial system in the ’80s and the ’90s” by arresting too many people, especially young black men. She imposed a “zero-chase policy” after high-speed pursuits ended in fatalities. She was the first openly gay chief in Atlanta, and the second woman to lead the department.

In recent weeks, she was praised for firing the officers who had pulled two college students from a car and Tased them — and for walking into a sea of protesters against police violence to hear their complaints in person.

And now, after Atlanta officers fatally shot a man in a Wendy’s parking lot on Friday night, she is out of a job.

With her voluntary resignation Saturday, she joined a long and growing line of progressive, reform-minded police chiefs who have stepped down or been fired, often after high-profile episodes of police violence.

The position of police chief, once prestigious, might be the most precarious job in America right now. And even with nationwide protests clamoring for change after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, the risks are particularly high for those whose mission is reform.

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