“Let’s get to work.”
This was the phrase uttered by Ferguson, Missouri’s first African-American police chief, Delrish Moss, promising hope and the reconstruction of a community broken by a deepening racial rift and an unmistakable lack of trust of law enforcement.
It was Monday [May 9] that Moss, a longstanding veteran of the Miami Police Department, was sworn in, outshining a list of 53 other applicants during a three-month search.
Replacing Tom Jackson, who resigned as police chief following the Justice Department’s declaration of racial bias in Ferguson’s criminal justice system, Moss is now tasked with the responsibility of rebuilding the social morale of a city riddled with unrest following the 2014 shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Mike Brown by a white police officer.
The United States Justice Department conducted a report on the Ferguson Police Department that revealed that while African-Americans make up 67 percent of Ferguson’s population, they made up 93 percent of the arrests made between 2012 and 2014.
“Ferguson somehow spoke to me in a way that said you’ve got to go there. You’ve got to try to make a difference there,” says Chief Moss, who says that he experienced the same instances of civil unrest over racial issues growing up in Miami.
Moss’s career with the Miami Police Department spans over 32 years in which he served as a homicide detective and a public services aid.
For 20 of that 32, he served as a public information officer, dealing with major crises and developments within the department, including the 2005 suicide of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Art Teele, following Teele’s conviction on charges of corruption.
Moss will be ushering in this new era under the fierce scrutiny of the public eye as well as under the close examination of the Justice Department.
It was in March that the city of Ferguson forestalled being sued by the Justice Department following their failure to follow through on terms of a deal for reform, unanimously accepting the Justice Department’s overhaul of the police department and court system of the city.
“Being the new guy from out of town, there’s always going to be some pushback,” the 51-year old veteran told the New York Times. “Even when the guy comes from within, there’s pushback, because there’s resistance to change. I am not nervous about it, I expect it.”
Moss told CNN that his decision to become a police officer was motivated by two teenage encounters with police officers in Miami. The first in which an officer searched him while he was walking after dark and called him the N-word.
The second was when another police officer got out of his car and frisked him without warning, citing that he decided he needed to become a police officer and provide a “better service” to his community.
It was Monday at his swearing-in ceremony that he reiterated that same value to his new force of police officers, once more assuring the city and its people that he’s arrived in Ferguson to bring about both criminal and social justice.
“If you work hard, if you stay honest and committed,” he addressed his officers, “If you maintain respect for the community and do your job well, we will get along just fine.”