ST. LOUIS — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon appointed a new state public safety director Wednesday, giving his administration its only black Cabinet member nearly three weeks after the shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer led to violent protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.
The governor said former St. Louis police Chief Daniel Isom II will take over Sept. 1 as director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety. He will replace Jerry Lee, who resigned after almost three years as director.
Nixon had faced criticism both for the lack of racial diversity among his department leaders and for the state's response to protesters and looters after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.
Nixon did not directly say whether the leadership change was related to the events in Ferguson. He said Isom "has experience and training in law enforcement that are almost unmatched." Nixon also denied forcing Lee to resign.
"I work constantly to try to make sure we have a government that reflects the citizens of the state," Nixon said at a St. Louis news conference that abruptly ended after he had fielded only a few questions.
Tensions have lessened in recent days, but Nixon did not say how long the Missouri Highway Patrol would remain in charge of securing the neighborhood near where Brown was shot.
Later Wednesday, Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson announced that the National Guard and St. Louis police had completed their departure from Ferguson.