May 9, 2016 / 4:15 PM / 3 years ago

Ferguson, Missouri police to stress safety, not fines: new chief

FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) - Ferguson, Missouri, the site of violent protests after a white officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in 2014, on Monday swore in an African American police chief who said his focus is on making the community safer, not more profitable.

A Ferguson Police officer drives past a mural in Ferguson, Missouri, March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

“Government is not designed to make a profit,” said Delrish Moss, a 51-year-old veteran of the Miami Police Department, referring to past Justice Department complaints of aggressive ticketing of African Americans by the police to boost city funds through fines. “Ferguson knows now that that is not the way to do things.”

His swearing in comes less than three weeks after a federal judge approved an agreement to reform Ferguson’s police department and municipal law code. The reforms are intended to fix what the U.S. Justice Department has called widespread racial bias in the city’s police department.

Moss, ahead of his installation, said his experience in Miami has been a training ground for Ferguson and his goal is to make the community safer. He was officially sworn in shortly after 3 p.m. CDT (4 p.m. ET).

The racial composition of the police in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb of 21,000, has been a source of controversy since most officers are white, while two-thirds of the town’s residents are black.

The Justice Department initiated a civil rights investigation into Ferguson’s policing after Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by a white officer in 2014.

Moss, who in his 32 years in Miami worked patrol, undercover assignments and homicide investigations, previously said Ferguson’s police department needed a massive recruiting drive to become more reflective of the community. Moss most recently was supervisor of Miami Police Department’s public information and community relations.

He is at least Ferguson’s third police chief since Brown’s death. Ferguson erupted into violent protests after a grand jury chose not to indict the white officer, Darren Wilson.

Thomas Jackson, chief at the time of Brown’s death, resigned in March 2015 after being criticized for the handling of the resulting protests. Interim Chief Andre Anderson, the city’s first black chief, resigned in December.

Brown’s death was one of several killings of unarmed black men that started a nationwide debate about the use of excessive force by police, especially against minorities.

The reform agreement requires Ferguson provide its officers with bias-awareness training and implement an accountability system, city officials have said. The city also agreed police must ensure that stop, search and arrest practices are not discriminatory under law.

Reporting by Sue Britt; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio

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