Ferguson has chosen a new interim police chief just two weeks before the first anniversary of Michael Brown’s tragic death. Andre Anderson, who was serving as commander of the Glendale, Ariz., police department, was introduced on Wednesday morning in a press conference. He is Ferguson’s first Black head of police.
After the city’s former police chief Thomas Jackson resigned, Al Eickhoff took over as interim chief. Eickhoff will remain on the force as Anderson steps in as chief, although it is not yet known what his role will be.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work, and I appreciate this opportunity,” Anderson announced at the press conference.
Although he is eager, Anderson also knows he has his work cut out for him. Several months ago, the Department of Justice investigated Ferguson’s police department following the riots that ensued after Brown’s death. The report concluded that the officers on the scene of the riots did not handle the situation correctly, pointing out unclear commands given to citizens and the use of fear tactics. It also found evidence of longstanding animosity between the police department and community, citing a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against Black citizens of Ferguson. One of these practices included police giving out more tickets to Black people and using the funds for municipal budgets.
Keeping this in mind, Anderson said he wants to implement the recommendations made by the Department of Justice. During his at least six months in Ferguson, Anderson hopes to rebuild trust between the police and community, which was already strained prior to Brown’s killing and only became worse after his death. He said his officers will be trained to guard against bias and escalation.
Anderson also said he would like to seek out and hire more qualified Black officers. The issues of discrimination in Ferguson are even more pressing than in other cities because Blacks make up more than half of Ferguson’s citizens. Perhaps with a more diverse police force, tensions will simmer and Ferguson’s Black citizens will feel more trusting of all of the officers.
Anderson has had a lengthy police career, having served on the Glendale police department for twenty-four years. He grew up in southwest Philadelphia, where he stated he witnessed similar tension between police and citizens that Ferguson is currently experiencing. Between his background in police leadership and his upbringing in a city with demographics similar to Ferguson, Anderson is confident that he is ready for the task at hand.
While Anderson expressed that he would like to take over the position full-time, his first priority is to use the six-month window he has been guaranteed to make positive changes in the city.
In the press conference, Anderson emphasized that he cannot repair the relationship between the citizens and police alone, and that the police cannot do it by themselves. Speaking to the community members, Anderson said, “We cannot do this without you I believe that together, we can forge better relationships.”