The City of Ferguson has hired a new police chief to help clean up its embattled police department in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown almost a year ago.
Ferguson Police Chief Andre Anderson
Andre Anderson, an African American officer from Glendale, Arizona, has been announced as the replacement for chief Tom Jackson in the Missouri city.
Jackson resigned earlier this year after a scathing Justice Department review of Ferguson’s policing uncovered officers trading racist jibes with one another and apparently treating black citizens as cash cows to swell the city’s coffers.
In a news conference Wednesday to announce the appointment, Ferguson mayor James Knowles admitted that Anderson’s race is a ‘bonus’ but said that he was hired because of his ‘attitude to policing’ and the fact that he ‘doesn’t see people in categories’.
Anderson, who was a commander in Glendale, has cited his ‘very diverse background’ in applications for previous policing jobs in his home state.
Local news station KMOV reported that Anderson applied for a policing job in a small Arizona town and said that he has ‘a very diverse background in working with different diversity and different groups’.
According to the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Anderson is an army veteran, worked as a prison guard and was once a professional boxer.
Ferguson’s police department was thrown into chaos last August after officer Darren Wilson shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old whom Wilson suspected of stealing cigars.
The contentious death sparked months of protests across the nation.
In Ferguson, heavily-armed riot police were called in to deal with violent demonstrators, who marched on the police headquarters and set fire to homes and businesses.
The unrest reached its peak after a grand jury in November decided not to charge Wilson over the killing.
He was also investigated by the Department of Justice, which took now action, before resigning to ‘allow the community to heal’.
Criticism of the department reached fever-point in March when DOJ officials released their own review of the department and identified ‘racial bias – both implicit and explicit’ as a defining characteristic of Ferguson.
Then-Attorney General Eric Holder said that in the city a ‘deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and residents’.
The report also suggested that officers targeted black people with traffic violations in order to bring in money for the city.
Those who could not pay were jailed or given further charges, bringing in more fines and trapping citizens in a cycle while swelling the coffers used to pay for things like police salaries, the report said.
It also uncovered explicit racism within the department itself, including emails employees sent to each other comparing Barack Obama to a monkey and characterizing black people as deadbeats and welfare claimants.
Mayor Knowles said that Anderson’s hiring will be ‘a fresh perspective’.
In an interview just after the hire was announced, he said: ‘He is extremely well-qualified. He will bring us a fresh perspective coming from outside the St Louis region.
‘We’re bringing someone in who has some expertise and who will help us’.
In response to a question about Anderson’s race, Knowles said: ‘In the eyes of many people I guess it is a bonus that he’s an African American’, but said he got the job because of his attitude to policing.
Anderson has been hired as the interim chief, but could be taken on permanently. He replaces Alan Eickhoff, the deputy of former chief Jackson, who has been interim chief since then.