A veteran Miami police officer will take over as police chief in the beleaguered city of Ferguson, Mo., where the killing of an unarmed Black man by a white police officer prompted months of unrest that sometimes grew violent and helped spark the national Black Lives Matter movement.
Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss, with more than three decades of law enforcement, media and community leadership experience, was tapped last week to head up the embattled department in Ferguson.
Moss said he was mistreated by police when he was a teenager in Miami. He recalled 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.”
He said the encounter, which left him “scared and embarrassed,” was among the reasons he became a police officer, joining the Miami police force in 1984 and steadily rising through the ranks.
Moss worked for a time in the homicide unit before he got the position of overseeing media and community relations. The latter job entailed working with community leaders, particularly in high-crime areas such as the Liberty City neighborhood.
Miami Police Chief John Timoney named Moss to his executive staff in 2009 and promoted him to major two years later.
The Miami Herald described Moss’ office as filled with plaques of appreciation from city leaders, activists and church elders. He was active in the local community as a member of the NAACP and president of the Police Athletic League.
Moss will need to draw upon all of his experiences and skills to help the St. Louis suburb heal as it rebounds after the fatal 2014 police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an event that still is resonating.
Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson during a street confrontation on Aug. 9, 2014. 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 and its police department in March 2015, citing racial bias in policing and a municipal court system that made money at the expense of poor and minority residents.
Police Chief Tom Jackson along with the city manager and municipal judge all resigned within days of the report. The City Council agreed in March to a settlement with the Justice Department that called for major reforms in the city’s criminal justice system.
Moss, an African American, will take charge of a mostly white department that serves a town where African Americans make up two-thirds of the residents. The incoming police chief acknowledges that the police department needs to change.
Moss said he looks forward to working with all segments of the Ferguson community and hopes to diversify the department.
“The police department should be much more reflective of the community it serves,” Mos said, “I certainly plan to hire more people of color, more women.
“I’d like to hire people from Ferguson who are actually committed to what happens there,” he added.
Moss will need to build on Ferguson’s recent efforts to implement community policing and community engagement. Hopefully, he will prove to be the right man for the job.