Ferguson police chief: 3 challenges that await new top cop

Protesters march at a City Council meeting in Ferguson, Missouri, on March 8.

Story highlights

  • Delrish Moss takes over as the new police chief of Ferguson, Missouri
  • He's a veteran law enforcement officer who served in Miami

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

The veteran Miami officer now heads the Ferguson Police Department, a task that includes healing a fractured community after the 2014 shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
    Brown, who was black, was killed by a white officer, prompting days of riots in the Missouri city and a national conversation on the role of race in police interactions.
    The city named Moss its new police chief Thursday. Here are three challenges that await him:

    Uncle Sam's watching

    When Moss takes the reins, he'll be expected to reform the Police Department under the wary eye of the U.S. Justice Department.
    Delrish Moss
    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.
    Demands for police reform started after a Justice Department investigation last year found that Ferguson officers discriminated against African-Americans, targeting them disproportionately for traffic stops, use of force and jail sentences.

    Racial distrust has scarred Ferguson

    Moss is a black man in charge of a mostly white department in a town with a majority of African-American residents.
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    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.
    A report last year by the Justice Department 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."
    The city manager says he believes Moss is "the right man" to get things done.
    "Our officers have worked extremely hard to implement community policing and community engagement in their daily practices," De'Carlon Seewood said.

    The system's unfair, the Justice Department says

    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.
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    "This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson," the report noted.
    In addition, it cited other statistical disparities, saying African-Americans made up 93% of arrests from 2012 to 2014 in Ferguson, a city where only 67% of residents are African-American.
    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."
    Last month, Ferguson averted further legal woes by unanimously agreeing to accept a Justice Department overhaul of its troubled police force and municipal courts.
    City officials say they are looking forward to a new start with a new police chief.
    "We understand the past 18 months have not been easy for everyone, but the city is now moving forward and we are excited to have Major Moss lead our police department," Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said.