FIU Captain and Public Information Officer Delrish Moss is back in Miami after spending two years as the police chief in Ferguson, Missouri. Moss spent decades as both a spokesperson and eventually a captain in Miami’s police department. He led the police department in Ferguson as the city continued to face protests over the killing of the unarmed black man Michael Brown by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.
During his time as police chief, Moss greatly expanded the number of women on the force as well as people of color. He spoke with Sundial host Luis Hernandez about his experience in Missouri and how it is informing his new position in Miami.
MOSS: You know the first day was a big surprise. Because when I got there, there's this big swearing-in ceremony and I go there with uniformed Miami police officers who also went up for the swearing in. We thought it would be great symbolism and we go up and we come out of the ceremony. And there are protests outside of the police station. And although I was one of the reasons they were protesting, they weren't necessarily just protesting me. I later talked to some of them who said, "We want to show you that we mean business, but we were really there to move the protest to another location after we showed you our strength." That began the journey in Ferguson.
WLRN: This is from the former Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood. He was talking about his department. He said, "90 percent of my officers are good people. Two percent are organizational terrorists and are always in trouble." Department to department it is a generalization. But there are bad actors, right? And you've got to spot them find them and then do something about it.
There are bad actors in every department. Just look at the new stories from years of departments here in South Florida. I think that what is incumbent upon leadership is to make sure that not only do you find these people, but you take decisive action to get rid of them.
While you were there,there was a protest at the Ferguson market. Some of the older officers were ready to just go in, stop it, get rid of people, arrest people. And you said, "Don't arrest anybody, let them protest."
Well, first of all, you have a right to protest. Everyone thinks that you don't but you have a right to protest. Our job is to make sure that you don't violate the law while you're protesting. And one of the things there was this mentality that protesting was criminal somehow.
It was the anniversary of Michael Brown's death. And his father organized this protest at the Ferguson market. And one of the things that happened during that is not only that we talked, Michael Brown Sr and I talk constantly during this to make sure that people stayed in line and didn't break the law because it would take away from what he was trying to achieve. We actually used that as an opportunity for police officers to dialogue with all those very people who had been yelling and screaming at them for a long time and you know some great relationships were actually formed out of that.
One of your responsibilities at FIU will be interacting with the media. And I'm wondering about some of the aspects of police relations, especially with communities of color. What should we in the media know about how we could do a better job on reporting this?
Really in the media, I've seen this change where there's this rush to be first and there's not enough in-depth stories like we used to see. And I also think that the media also has to guard against the biases that occur within the media. I think back to in Miami, we had two stories that happened. We had a teacher who was snatched into a car, she managed to fight off her attacker and he ran away. That was a huge story.
The same time on the other side of town a mother got off from work and went to drop her kid off the babysitter. And she spent a little bit of time before she went to her second and then third job. And as she comes back out her tire's flat, she's changing the tire and then say she's killed by a stray bullet. That story didn't get any coverage. And I think the expectation was well, she's in Liberty City. I think a lot of people thought well things like that are bound to happen there. I think that we have to be very, very careful, not just the media. But I think we have to be very very careful as we examine things and look at them for the content of them rather than who they happen to.