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Can newly appointed interim police chief help heal fractured Ferguson?

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Jeff Roberson/AP

(Read caption) Andre Anderson speaks during a news conference announcing him as the interim police chief of the Ferguson Police Department Wednesday, in Ferguson, Mo. Chief Anderson becomes the second interim chief since Police Chief Thomas Jackson stepped down in March.

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Weeks before the one-year anniversary of a fatal shooting that prompted months of sometimes-violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., the city is naming a new interim chief to lead its police department: Andre Anderson, an African-American police commander from Glendale, Arizona.

The hiring follows accusations by the US Justice Department of widespread racial bias in Ferguson’s police force. The investigation followed the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, by white officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. A grand jury declined to indict Mr. Wilson in relation to the shooting.

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Since the backlash against Mr. Brown’s death came into the national spotlight last fall, several investigations have revealed racially biased policing policies in the St. Louis suburb. 

ArchCity Defenders, a legal defense group, found that Ferguson police stopped, ticketed, and arrested a disproportionate number of black people, even though statistics showed that white people were more likely to be carrying contraband. 

Another report by The Washington Post’s Radley Balko described how Ferguson and many other surrounding cities appeared to be using municipal courts to essentially shake down poor, black residents for general revenue.

Over the course of the past year, the Ferguson city government and police department have undergone massive changes in both structure and personnel. Mr. Anderson will be the second interim chief to hold the position since the resignation of then-police Chief Thomas Jackson. Ferguson's current interim police chief, Lt. Col. Al Eickhoff, will remain with the department.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said it wasn’t easy finding a new interim chief, and that Anderson is "extremely well-qualified” for the job. 

"He will bring us a fresh perspective coming from outside the St. Louis region,” Mayor Knowles told Reuters. "We're bringing someone in who has some expertise and who will help us.” 

During his 24 years at the Glendale Police Department, Anderson mentored and coached at-risk youth at a local boxing gym, according to the Arizona Republic.

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Anderson has said that his first priority is to address justice department reforms. 

Ferguson's previous police chief, city manager, municipal court judge, and three police department employees all resigned or were fired after the Justice Department released a report detailing racial biases in the city's policing and courts. The city is still seeking a city manager, who will make a decision regarding a permanent police chief, according to Knowles.

This report includes material from Reuters.


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