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Ferguson’s First Black Police Chief Hopes to Bring Personal Experiences of Police Brutality to New Position 

Delrish Moss. Courtesy City of Ferguson

Delrish Moss. Courtesy City of Ferguson

All eyes were on Delrish Moss Monday as the former Miami Police major took the oath of office at the Ferguson Community Center on Monday. The City of Ferguson’s first permanent African-American police chief delivered a speech that brought the crowd of around 150 to its feet, the St. Louis-Dispatch reports.

“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,” Moss said. “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.”

Moss gave up the promise of a sandy retirement in Miami when he first heard about the shooting death of Missouri teen Mike Brown. Like many Black men, growing up Moss endured contentious meetings with police officers that shaped his view of law enforcement as an adult. He told NPR’s Ari Shapiro about two experiences that inspired him to join the police force.

“One was where I was sitting on a bus stop and a police officer comes up and he starts to search my bag. He searches me and he tells me, ‘You N-word shouldn’t walk downtown after dark,’ ” Moss said.

In a second encounter, Moss said he was stopped, pushed against a wall and searched by a police officer while simply walking down the street. The officer immediately reentered his vehicle and drove off.

“And he never said a word. Never did anything to restore my dignity, never explained why he treated me in such a fashion,” Moss recounted. “And both of those things actually started my curiosity with the police profession. And I had decided that I needed to become a police officer so that I could provide better services to my community than we seemed to be getting.”

Moss served 32 years with the Miami Police Department before he was chosen among 54 applicants in March, according to the Associated Press.

Moss faces a city damaged by not just the high-profile police shooting that spurred months of civil unrest. Ferguson has amassed an alarming amount of debt due to federal lawsuits, and the city failed to gain enough votes for a property tax hike in April, the Post-Dispatch reported. The municipal court revenue is an estimated $500,000 less than anticipated. An investigation by the U.S. Justice Department revealed Black residents were previously funding the city through egregious municipal court fines and fees.

Moss remains hopeful.

“I think this is a job based on my previous career that I’ve been training my entire life for,” he told CNN.

Ferguson has seen great improvements to the racial disparities that once plagued the town. Back in 2014, the 67 percent Black town had a police force that was 94 percent white. African-Americans made up 93 percent of arrests from 2012 to 2014.

In February, the city made history with the election of a fourth African-American city council member, bringing the body to its first Black majority ever. At the time of Mike Brown’s death only one of the council’s six members was Black.

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