Ferguson swore in its new police chief, Delrish Moss, this week.
Moss will be tasked with the job of repairing a community that has had its trust in the police force broken since the killing of Michael Brown at the hands of police in August 2014. But Moss says he is up for the challenge.
Moss previously worked with the Miami Police Department, where he served for 32 years. According to Moss, growing up in Miami and experiencing mistreatment from police officers firsthand inspired him to pursue a career in law enforcement — to address the deeply rooted problem from the inside, he shared with CBS News.
“My grandmother has a saying, and that is you can’t clean a house if you’re not in it,” Moss said.
Moss recounted some of the encounters he endured with officers in Florida.
“He was a white police officer, and he told me ‘You n-word, don’t walk downtown after dark,'” he said. “I had another experience not long after that, the police officer gets out of the car, pushes me up against the wall, he starts to frisk me.”
However, Moss wasted no time saying that he would not tolerate similar behavior on his force.
“If you work hard, if you stay honest and committed, if you maintain respect for the community and do your job well, we will get along just fine,” he said upon being sworn in. “If you fall short of that, and it’s through a mistake of the head, we will work to correct that. But if you do it with malice, if you do the job in a way that disrespects the badge that you hold, I will see to it that you are either removed from police service, or further prosecuted.”
Problems deeply embedded in Ferguson’s police department and justice system have been brought to light following the riots that ensued after Brown’s death. A Department of Justice investigation into the city uncovered a pattern of racial profiling, Attorney General Loretta Lynch previously revealed:
“Our investigation uncovered a community in distress, in which residents felt under assault by their own police force. The Ferguson Police Department’s violations were expansive and deliberate. They violated the Fourth Amendment by stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without cause and using unreasonable force. They made enforcement decisions based on the way individuals expressed themselves and unnecessarily escalated non-threatening situations. These violations were not only egregious — they were routine.”
Moss does not expect an easy fix, saying he doesn’t have “some magic pill or magic solution” that will repair the city’s problems. But he told the police officers in attendance at his swearing in that it is essential to perform officer duties with dignity and respect for the profession.
“It’s our task to bring nobility back to this work and to make sure that we honor our badges, and we serve our communities with respect,” he said.
Andre Anderson, the city’s first Black police chief who served in the interim following the resignation of former Chief Thomas Jackson, resigned in December. At the time of Anderson’s departure, Mayor James Knowles III praised “the exceptional and innovative work Anderson has done for the City of Ferguson and our police department” and called Anderson “a valuable member of our team.” During his time as chief he made notable progress with the department, including raising money for body cameras and recording devices and implementing new leadership programs.