Anderson, 50, has his work cut out for him.
The shooting death last year of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, at the hands of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, thrust the small Missouri city into the center of a national conversation about race and race relations as protests swelled over the shooting.
Investigations conducted by the Department of Justice in the wake of the shooting found, among other things, that Ferguson officers were specifically targeting black and poor residents, using tickets to raise revenue for the city, and frequently using unnecessary physical force. The probe also uncovered several racially charged e-mails sent by police and other Ferguson officials.
Wilson did not face state or federal prosecution for the shooting but then-police chief Thomas Jackson, who was white, and other city government officials left their posts.
“I do understand that race is a factor, but the reality is I place the greatest emphasis on humans, period, and those that care,” Anderson said Wednesday.
As he takes the helm of Ferguson’s police, Anderson plans to use strategies such as “de-escalation training and “bias awareness training,” CNN reported. Anderson also said that he intends to use practices recommended by the Obama administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing “to cultivate relationships that we know and hope will reshape our direction in the city of Ferguson.”
Anderson comes to Ferguson from Glendale, Ariz., where he was a commander in the Criminal Investigations Division of Glendale police.
Matthew Lively, Glendale’s assistant police chief, told the Arizona Republic that Anderson’s upbringing in a “somewhat divided” part of Philadelphia made Anderson qualified for the post in Ferguson because Anderson has a perspective “many others might not have.”
Lively also described Anderson as “diplomatic [and] a problem solver who always tries to see both sides of an issue and identify a common ground,” the Arizona Republic also reported. For example, during the Glendale police department’s preparations for Super Bowl XLIX, Anderson was “especially helpful” in connecting with protest organizers, Lively said.
Anderson joined the Glendale Police Department in 1991 after a short stint working for the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Republic reported.
But policing was not what Anderson had originally set out to do professionally.
Anderson started to learn how to box at age 12 while growing up in Philadelphia, the Republic reported. He moved to Arizona after serving in the Army and won two pro fights. Then his life changed in 1988. While changing a tire along Interstate 10, he was hit by a car and suffered a crushed pelvis, the Republic reported. He returned to the ring, but he was not the same. It was then that he made the move to law enforcement.
Before being tapped by Ferguson, Anderson had been with the Glendale Police Department for nearly a quarter century, according to the Glendale police, including 16 years in leadership roles.
In 2013, Anderson was one of two finalists for the job of police chief in Casa Grande, Ariz., according to the Casa Grande Dispatch.
For now, the posting to Ferguson is temporary, but Anderson hopes to be considered for the position permanently, the Associated Press reported. The city of Glendale told the St. Louis Dispatch that Anderson is using his vacation time for his six-month leave and he will be taking a “‘leave without pay through January of 2016’” once his vacation time runs out.
Anderson is the second official from Glendale that has been tapped by Ferguson as the Missouri city seeks to rebuild its official ranks and its reputation after the controversy that surrounded Michael Brown’s shooting death. Ed Beasley, Ferguson’s new interim city manager, left a post as Glendale’s city manager earlier this year. Like Anderson, Beasley is African American.
Beasley said Anderson is known “for his ability not only to lead but for his innovation,” according to the St. Louis Dispatch. Beasley also noted that Anderson had reached out to him about the police chief position in Ferguson.
“I believe I am the right particular person for this job,” Anderson said Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of work to be done. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” he also said.