Black father, son share commitment to law enforcement

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — In this week’s Western Washington Gets Real, a Black father tells us how he got his son to join him in law enforcement.

The two Pierce County deputies are laying a path they hope others will follow.

The racial unrest that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police placed a harsh spotlight on law enforcement, but a Black father and son in Pierce County still believe there is room for police and sheriff’s deputies who are not white.

“At home, I’m Dad,” says Darren Moss Sr., laughing. “At work, I’m senior.”

The laughs come easily between the two. After all they share a name.

“Darren Moss, Junior,” says his namesake.

They work for the same employer, and share in all the confusion that comes with that.

“Emails, phone calls, message, ... ‘who’s that for?’” said the younger Moss. “Well, that’s not mine.”

They also share something else that is rare among African Americans: a commitment to a career in law enforcement.

It began for Detective Darren Moss Sr. in 1992.

“I had seen the Rodney King video, (it) disturbed me,” said Moss Sr. “And I just felt the best way to bring about change was from within. If I become a police and can convince others, maybe we can change the system.”

One of those he managed to convince was his son, a Washington State University graduate who once dreamed of being a television reporter.

“I told him (police work) was more exciting,” said Moss Sr., smiling.

And Darren Moss Jr. was already rethinking his career choice.

“Like, what’s the point of me just going on TV and entertaining people?,” he said. “I’d rather actually do something to help people.”

So in 2008, he joined the San Diego Police Department. Then in 2011, he brought his growing family back home to Pierce County.

It turns out he is also working with TV. Deputy Moss is also the Pierce County Sheriff’s public information officer.

They, too, have seen the racial unrest that swept the country after the very public death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police; they also felt the stigma associated with their chosen profession.

“On the one side, ‘sellout’ comes out,” says Moss Sr. “Oh, I’ve been called that many a time. And then on the other side, if you get the white person that’s racist, well, you know what they’re going to call me.”

Throughout it all, he says he has worked with a guiding principle.

“Everybody’s treated fairly; everybody’s treated with respect.”

All the while, he was becoming a guiding light for his son.

“For me, my Dad is my hero,” said Moss Jr. “He was my coach through all my sports. He loved me and sister, raised us right. And so my superhero out there doing his job, you know, was just the coolest thing in the world: ‘Hey, my dad’s a cop.’”

In the nearly 30 years Darren Moss Sr. has worn the badge, much has changed in law enforcement; but he remains committed to what he was all those years ago, a belief that even those who look like he and his son can have a good career.

“You hear a lot of talk about the department reflecting the community,” said Moss Sr. “Well, you can’t get that if half the community refuses to take the job. We’re hiring. We need people. We need lots of people.”

He needs someone to eventually replace him, he says. But when he does leave, there will still be at least one Darren Moss on the force.

Darren Moss Sr. and his son are not the only family members with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. His son-in-law is also an deputy.