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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss says goodbye much like he does most things, with a smile, a hug and a casual, warm attitude.
He told CBS4’s Natalia Zea leaving his 32-year job at the Miami Police Department is bittersweet.
“I grew up here, grew up not only in the community but grew up right here in this police department.”
Moss is one of those rare people who makes everyone he meets feel like a friend, even some of those he’s put behind bars, including a convicted killer.
“Not only did he confess over and over again, a few years later I got a Christmas card from him,” he recalled.
One year he was surprised by a mother and her young son named Delrish – but a little Delrish in namesake only.
“I had put her in jail some years ago and helped her after she got out of jail to rebuild her life,” he said.
Moss is leaving behind a job where he has worked with organizations, and mentored countless children, to lead a new charge as police chief in Ferguson, Missouri.
As he watched the anti-police riots in Ferguson, Moss recalled his own experience during race riots in Miami.
“Most police officers can talk about where they were when riots occurred or how they responded to it in law enforcement but they can’t talk to you about how they responded to it as a child with fires burning right outside your door,” he said.
He believes that understanding gives him the ability to help rebuild community, in desperate times.
“We police at the pleasure of the community and I think the more we understand that, the better we understand that, the better we’ll be,” he said.
Heading a department under the national spotlight for a negative past doesn’t scare Moss.
He was a patrol officer during the Miami River cop scandal in the 80s, when dozens of officers were fired, and some arrested for robbing drug dealers.
He also spoke to the local and national press during the battle over Elian Gonzalez.
“I get the question all the time, how do you deal with the news media? How do you deal with the news media? But the news media’s been great to me,” he added.
As much as he loves his job, Moss has been openly excited about his pending retirement for years. He often showed his countdown clock app on his cell phone to anyone who’d look at it. Just five months away from ending his police career, he instead is taking on this new challenge.
“Ferguson somehow spoke to me in a way that said you’ve got to go there. You’ve got to try to make a difference there,” he said.