A change has come to Ferguson, Missouri, that many hope will lead to the healing of the city. Delrish Moss, a former distinguished Miami police officer, has been named as the city’s first Black chief of police. The city, which is 67 percent Black with a predominantly White police force, has faced scrutiny by the Justice Department over its operation. The most telling of which was that Black citizens of Ferguson comprise up to 93 percent of arrests. It is now going to be up to Moss to redefine a police force after the 2014 police shooting of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown and the subsequent riots that shocked the nation. Ferguson, for many, is considered ground zero of the Black Lives Matter movement and the experience of Moss as a community relations expert is something that Ferguson needs.
As a Miami public information officer, Moss was a spokesman and community liaison when demonstrations rocked the city in 2000. It was in that year that Elian Gonzalez was forcibly deported back to Cuba by the United States at the request of the Cuban government. From 2011 until recently, Moss was the commander, community relations section, and public information officer for the Miami Police Department. He was chosen from an application pool of 54 for the post of police chief of Ferguson.
“I think this is a job based on my previous career that I’ve been training my entire life for,” Moss recently stated to the media.
Moss will face daunting challenges that include a Justice Department decree that has resulted in the overhaul of how the city of Ferguson polices its Black residents. A report noted that Blacks who were cited for minor offenses often had high fines, which led to arrests and jail time for those who failed to pay. This system was a revenue-generating scheme that in 2013 alone, earned the city $2,635,400 in municipal court fines. The breakdown on this revenue comes from Ferguson courts’ handling of 12,108 cases and 24,532 warrants in 2013. That means on average, there were one and a half cases and three warrants per Ferguson household. The report led to the resignation of former chief Tom Jackson and other top city officials.
Combined with racial tension and community distrust, it will be up to Moss now to not only navigate the situation but to also build new bridges to the Black community. The task, according to Moss, is now to bring nobility back to the department. He is quoted as saying to police officers, “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.”