FERGUSON, Mo. (CNN) — The city of Ferguson, Missouri, swore in Delrish Moss as its first African-American police chief on Monday.
A longtime veteran of the Miami Police Department, Moss was selected over 53 other applicants after a three-month search, the city said. He was officially sworn in at a ceremony on Monday afternoon.
He is tasked with helping rebuild the Ferguson Police Department after racially charged protests broke out over the 2014 shooting death of African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.
“Major Moss exemplifies the type of experience in law enforcement that we believe will enhance the many new programs within the Ferguson Police Department,” City Manager De’Carlon Seewood said.
Moss may be new to the department, but the problems he faces are not. He’ll be tasked with healing a fractured community in the spotlight since the 2014 shooting of 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 department under the wary eye of the U.S. Justice Department.
“Ferguson somehow spoke to me in a way that said, ‘You’ve got to go there. You’ve got to try and make a difference there,’ ” Moss told CNN affiliate WFOR-TV in Miami.
Last year, Justice Department investigators sought reforms after finding what they called a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional police conduct in the city.
The federal government sued in February after the Ferguson City Council balked at some terms of a negotiated deal, but the city averted further legal woes in March by unanimously agreeing to accept a Justice Department overhaul of its troubled police force and municipal courts.
In its report last year, the Justice Department highlighted a policing system that uses arrest warrants as generators of income. 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 said.
African-Americans made up 93% of arrests from 2012 to 2014 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,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch has said. “They were driven, at least in part, by racial bias and they occurred disproportionately against African-American residents of Ferguson.”
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.
Brown’s shooting by white police officer Darren Wilson brought national attention to Ferguson’s racial wounds.
But the Justice Department report described a city 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.”