article by Maria Sudekum via thegrio.com
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A veteran Miami police officer with two decades of experience dealing with the media and community leaders will take over as police chief in Ferguson, hoping to help the St. Louis suburb heal as it rebounds after the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.
Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss was announced as chief Thursday, putting a black man in charge of a mostly white department that serves a town where African-Americans make up two-thirds of the residents.
“This has been a long and strenuous process, but we believe Major Moss is the right choice,” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said in a statement. “We understand the past 18 months have not been easy for everyone, but the City is now moving forward and we are excited to have Major Moss lead our police department.”
The 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson during a street confrontation on Aug. 9, 2014. The shooting prompted months of unrest that sometimes grew violent and helped spark the national Black Lives Matter movement.
A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to indict Wilson, who resigned in November 2014. But the Justice Department issued a critical report of Ferguson in March 2015, citing racial bias in policing and a municipal court system that made money at poor and minority residents’ expense.
Ferguson’s city manager, municipal judge and Police Chief Tom Jackson all resigned within days of the report. The Ferguson City Council just two weeks ago agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department that calls for major reforms in the city’s criminal justice system.
Moss said Thursday in a telephone interview he looks forward to working with all segments of the Ferguson community and also hopes to diversify the department.
“The police department should be much more reflective of the community it serves. … I certainly plan to hire more people of color, more women,” Moss said. “I’d like to hire people from Ferguson who are actually committed to what happens there.”
A news release from the city of Ferguson said City Manager De’Carlon Seewood made the final decision to select Moss.
“Our officers have worked extremely hard to implement community policing and community engagement in their daily practices,” Seewood said in the release. “Mr. Moss is the right man for the job to continue those initiatives.”
Moss, 51, grew up in Miami’s inner-city Overtown neighborhood and as a teenager lived through rioting after white police officers fatally beat a black motorcyclist in 1980.
He also said he was mistreated by two police officers when he was a young teenager in Miami. He said he was about 14 and walking home from an after-school job cleaning a bank when an officer pushed him against a wall, frisked him, searched his belongings “and no sooner than he arrived he left,” Moss said. He said the encounter left him “scared and embarrassed” and is among the reasons he became a police officer.