Missouri Governor Appoints Black Cabinet Member

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 08:16 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has appointed a black former St. Louis police chief, Daniel Isom II, to become the state’s director of the Department of Public Safety, The Associated Press reported.

The move comes in the wake of the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of a black teen by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, followed by weeks of violence, looting and racial unrest.
Nixon dispatched the Highway Patrol to take over policing duties. When the violence continued, he sent in the National Guard.

Nixon, who has been in office since 2009, did not address whether what happened in Ferguson or whether Isom’s race played a role in the appointment, saying only that he "has experience and training in law enforcement that are almost unmatched," according to AP.

Critics have splayed Nixon since the events in Ferguson, saying he took too long to respond. He also took heat for imposing a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew for two nights and calling in the National Guard, The New York Times reported.

On Wednesday, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson announced that the Guard and St. Louis police "had completed their departure from Ferguson," according to AP.

Some black members of the state leadership are skeptical of Isom’s appointment, though they agreed he’s qualified for the position.

"It’s a political move to try to calm down the African-American community because of the concerns that they have with him not removing Bob McCulloch," state Senator Jamilah Nasheed told the Times, referring to the St. Louis County prosecutor investigating the death of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot by Officer Darren Wilson.

Nixon has refused to remove McCulloch from prosecuting the case. McCulloch’s father was a police officer killed in the line of duty. Nixon’s explanation is that "people need to step up and do their job."

Nasheed supports Isom’s appointment, but said it’s "past overdue."

"His cabinet is all white," she said, adding that "it was time for him to show a little diversity within his cabinet."

Isom holds a doctorate in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a master’s in public administration from Saint Louis University, the Times reported. He is a 24-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department, four of those as chief.

He retired in January 2013 and took a teaching position in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, according to AP.

As public safety director, he will oversees both the Missouri Highway Patrol, the National Guard and the state’s Emergency Management Agency.

Isom is not Nixon's first black cabinet member, according to AP. Kelvin Simmons was commissioner of the Office of Administration from 2009 until he departed the post in 2012.

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