Veteran Miami officer to lead Ferguson, Missouri police force

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 01, 2016 12:31 AM

(Reuters) - The city of Ferguson, Missouri, where racially charged protests erupted after a white officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in 2014, hired a veteran black officer from Miami to lead its embattled police department through painful reforms, officials said on Thursday.

The appointment to the helm of a predominantly white police force comes about two weeks after the Ferguson City Council agreed to reforms aimed at fixing what the U.S. government has called widespread racial bias in its department's policing of a majority black city.

The new chief, Delrish Moss, has worked patrol, undercover assignments and homicide investigations, and supervised the Miami Police Department's community and media relations during his 32-year career in law enforcement, Ferguson officials said.

"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," Mayor James Knowles said in a statement.

Moss is at least the third police chief in the St. Louis suburb of some 21,000 residents following the 2014 slaying of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Ferguson erupted into violent protests after a grand jury chose not to indict the white officer, Darren Wilson.

Brown's death was one of several killings of unarmed black men that started a nationwide debate about the use of excessive force by police, especially against minorities.

The shooting resulted in a Justice Department investigation that found Ferguson police disproportionately arrested and issued traffic citations to blacks to boost city coffers through fines, used police as a collection agency and created a culture of distrust that exploded when Wilson fatally shot Brown.

The city's reform agreement, which avoids the cost of litigating the Justice Department's claims, requires Ferguson's officers to have bias-awareness training and implement an accountability system, city officials said. The city also agreed that police must ensure that stop, search and arrest practices are not discriminatory under law.

Thomas Jackson, who was the chief at the time of Brown's death, was criticized for the handling of the resulting protests. He resigned in March 2015. Interim Chief Andre Anderson, the city's first black police chief, resigned in December.

Officials said they had narrowed a field that started with 54 applications in a process that included panels of residents, lawmakers and law enforcement. City Manager De'Carlon Seewood made the final decision.

"(Ferguson) needs a massive recruiting drive to become more reflective of the community," Moss told the Miami Herald newspaper earlier this month.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Brendan O'Brien and Richard Pullin)