Ferguson, Missouri to swear in new police chief

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Delrish Moss is a new police chief in a department facing not-so-new problems.
Delrish Moss is a new police chief in a department facing not-so-new problems.

(CNN) — The Ferguson Police Department is set to swear in its first African-American police chief Monday at 4 p.m. ET.

Major Delrish Moss, a veteran Miami officer, was selected in April after a three-month, nationwide search, the city said in a news release. “Major Moss exemplifies the type of experience in law enforcement that we believe will enhance the many new programs within the Ferguson Police Department,” said City Manager De’Carlon Seewood.

Though he’s new to the department, the problems he faces are not.

He’ll be tasked with healing a fractured community in the spotlight since the 2014 shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.

He’ll have to navigate a mostly-white police department in charge of a majority black city.

And he’ll be expected to reform the Police Department under the wary eye of the U.S. Justice Department.

“Ferguson somehow spoke to me in a way that said, you’ve gotta go there, you’ve got to try and make a difference there,” Moss told CNN affiliate WFOR.

Federal oversight

The feds have demanded police reform in Ferguson and sued the city over alleged patterns of discrimination and unconstitutional police conduct.

And the government is not backing down.

“We intend to aggressively prosecute this case, and we intend to prevail,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in February.

In its scathing report last year, the Justice Department highlighted a policing system that uses arrest warrants to make money out of residents. The report described police practices “shaped by the city’s focus on revenue,” not public needs.

“This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson,” the report noted.

African-Americans made up 93% of arrests from 2012 to 2014 in Ferguson but only 67% of the city’s population.

The disproportionate number of arrests of minorities was a result of bias, not crime, the report said.

“These violations were not only egregious, they were routine. They were encouraged by the city in the interest of raising revenue,” Lynch has said. “They were driven, at least in part, by racial bias and they occurred disproportionately against African American residents of Ferguson.”

Ferguson averted further legal woes in March by unanimously agreeing to accept a Justice Department overhaul of its troubled police force and municipal courts.

Racial distrust

As Ferguson works to recruit more minorities, a big part of the police chief’s role will be reaching out to a community scarred by deep racial distrust.

The 2014 shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teen, by white police officer Darren Wilson brought Ferguson’s racial wounds national attention.

But the Justice Department report described a town where officers handcuff minority residents without probable cause, use racial slurs and retaliate against those who question police tactics.

“The residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights, the rights guaranteed to all Americans, for decades,” Lynch said last year. “They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

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