US & Canada

Ferguson names black officer interim police chief

Andre Anderson speaks during a news conference announcing him as the interim police chief of the Ferguson Police Department - 22 July 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Anderson said he is going to need the community's help

Officials in Ferguson, Missouri, have hired an African-American police chief nearly a year after racial tensions rocked the town.

Andre Anderson, who most recently worked in Glendale, Arizona, will serve as chief for six months.

Last August, a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager there, sparking months of protests and unrest.

The mostly white police department's aggressive response to the protests came under heavy criticism.

Michael Brown's death was one of a number of contentious cases in the US in which white officers killed unarmed black men.

A grand jury declined to charge the officer in Brown's death, but a US justice department investigation found widespread alleged racial bias in the police force.

"The city of Ferguson and our police department have endured a tremendous amount of distrust during the past nine months," Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said in a statement. "We understand it will take time to once again gain the trust of everyone."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protests in Ferguson set off a national debate about race and policing

The 50-year-old Mr Anderson said at a news conference on Wednesday that he would need the community's help in increasing trust between the police force and the people it serves. He said he is interested in becoming Ferguson's permanent police chief.

"I am asking the city of Ferguson if we can set a course in the history books that clearly proves that peace prevails," he said. "There's a lot of work to be done."

He mentioned President Barack Obama's "21st Century Policing" task force and said the department would be focusing on attracting and hiring quality applicants to be officers.

Ferguson interim city manager Ed Beasley, who is also black, said Mr Anderson is "exceptionally known nationally on his ability to lead and his innovation."

Mr Knowles said that Ferguson, which is two-thirds black, has revamped its municipal court system, hired a new interim judge and that its police force is now equipped with body cameras.

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