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Ferguson's new police chief: First in-person meeting with Justice Department 'helpful'

Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss greets residents outside the Ferguson Police Department hours after being sworn in as chief.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss was sworn in as chief about two and a half weeks ago and recently met with Justice Department officials in-person.

Ferguson's new police chief said he and U.S. Justice Department officials are "on the same page" about moving forward with reforming the city's police department, following their first in-person meeting Wednesday.

"It was an introductory meeting," Chief Delrish Moss said. "We’ve been at different places at different times, but this was the first time we actually got to sit in the room and talk about what our plans are for Ferguson." 

Moss, who described the meeting as "very helpful," was sworn in a little more than two weeks ago to lead the embattled department after the city entered into a controversial federal consent decree earlier this year.

That agreement requires major changes to Ferguson's police department and city government, and initially, some officials and residents were concerned that it amounted to an unfunded mandate being imposed on the city by the federal government.

But Moss said the decree still gives him flexibility as chief to find solutions, not tie his hands. 

"One of the things you'll see as you read the Department of Justice report is that they want X, Y and Z results, but they don't really give you a map to getting there," he said. "So I think they are flexible enough to know that there are many ways to arrive at a good answer."

Still, Moss acknowledges that budgetary constraints will be a challenge.

"I say to anyone, 'Invest in Ferguson. Put your money where your mouth is, in terms of the criticism and even the praise, so that will help us greatly," he said.

Moss also said he's "not a stranger" to consent decrees, noting the Miami Police Department where he used to work recently entered into a less vast federal agreement following five years of negotiations. 

"I think that one of the things that happens in this job, Justice Department aside, is everyone has a different prescription for the problem," he said. "It's just balancing those and finding the right ones - that's my job."

Moss said he's also in the process of developing a plan for his first 30 days as chief and anticipates he'll have some input in who is hired to monitor the city's progress toward fulfilling the consent decree.

"I will work with anyone as long as their goal is to see a better Ferguson," he said. 

In the meantime, Moss said he is working on developing a plan for his next 30 days as chief, based on what he has "observed and heard since I’ve been here."