Ferguson hires its first African-American interim police chief

© Lucas Jackson
Just four months after the Justice Department found that the Ferguson Police Department and municipal courts discriminated against African-Americans residents, the city hired its first interim black police chief.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles made the announcement Wednesday and said Andre Anderson, 50, would begin implementing department reforms prescribed by the Justice Department.

"The City of Ferguson and our Police Department have endured a tremendous amount of distrust during the past nine months,” Mayor Knowles said in a press release. "We understand that it will take time to once again gain the trust of everyone."

Anderson was appointed just weeks ahead of the one-year anniversary of the fatal officer-involved shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose death sparked massive protests in the city. Anderson has spent the last 24 years with the Glendale Police Department in Arizona, most recently as a commander. He is taking a six month sabbatical from the post to work in Ferguson.

I am truly humbled and honored that the city has selected me for this position,” said Anderson during a Wednesday news conference, reported the Associated Press. “There’s a lot of work to be done. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do the work.”

Anderson told a reporter he grew up in southwest Philadelphia, which had similar demographics as Ferguson, and where he saw the same police-community trust issues.

He said his first “plan of action” was to build trust within a community of 21,000 that is two-thirds African-American, and to emphasize community-oriented policing practices that have been part of a year-long national dialogue on law enforcement.

The Justice Department launched its investigation after a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Brown, an African-American, on August 9, setting off months of sometimes violent street protests in the St. Louis, Missouri suburb.

A report released in March by the Justice Department found police officers routinely targeted African-American residents for traffic stops and tickets.

In the 105-page report, federal investigators uncovered “a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violates the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and federal statutory law.” The report also found evidence of racist jokes sent by police and court officials.

READ MORE: Justice Dept. blasts Ferguson police response to protests in leaked report

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder said he was “shocked” by the probe’s findings and told reporters that he would be willing to dismantle the city’s police force if necessary.

In the aftermath of its publication, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned. The findings also led to the firing of one police officer and the resignation of two others, the firing of the county clerk and a judge. The city manager was also told to step down after a City Council vote.

Police Chief Anderson said the report “will serve as a template” for department reforms.

He plans to recruit new officers to the force “who can exemplify respect and cultural awareness” on the job, and he is looking for support from the community “because we cannot do this without you.”

Anderson joins a handful of African-American police chiefs and commissioners in majority-black cities, such as Atlanta, New Orleans and Memphis, Tennessee.

Anderson said he hopes he will be a candidate to take over the department full-time.