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Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday named a black police commander from Arizona as its new interim chief to lead a police department that was accused by the U.S. Justice Department of widespread racial bias in its policing.
Andre Anderson, 50, a commander in the Glendale, Arizona, police department, will be the second person to hold the interim role in the St. Louis suburb since Chief Thomas Jackson resigned in March days after the release of the federal report.
Anderson is taking a six-month leave of absence from the Glendale force and will begin working as interim Ferguson police chief on Thursday, Ferguson officials said.
He will be leading a predominantly white police force in the majority African-American city where last Aug. 9 white police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, which set off sometimes violent protests.
A grand jury declined in November to charge Wilson in Brown’s death and Wilson resigned from the department. But anger over Brown’s death and other police killings around the United States led to protests in many U.S. cities and started a national dialog on police treatment of minorities.
Anderson told a news conference one of his first steps will be to cultivate relationships and develop policing in conjunction with Justice Department recommendations “that we know and hope will reshape our direction here in the city of Ferguson.”
Anderson said his second priority was in hiring qualified officers with character, respect, cultural awareness and professionalism and that the department reflects the community’s demographics.
Ferguson’s interim city manager, Ed Beasley, who began work a month ago, also came from Glendale.
The current interim chief, Al Eickhoff, joined the department in 2014 under Jackson and will resume his duties as assistant police chief, Ferguson officials said.
Anderson, a U.S. Army veteran, has served as a vice president in the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. He has more than 24 years in law enforcement, including 16 in leadership roles.
The police department has a roster of 45 officers but is budgeted for 55, according to Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III.
Knowles said in a news release that the city and police force have “endured a tremendous amount of distrust” and Anderson can make recommendations to the department that will result in long standing improvements.
Ferguson’s police chief, city manager and municipal court judge left their jobs after the Justice Department’s report detailing biases in the city’s policing and courts.
Knowles has said that the city manager would be expected to make a decision about a permanent police chief. Ferguson has not yet decided on a permanent city manager.
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