Racine swears in first African-American police chief

RACINE -- The Racine Board of Police and Fire Commissioners selected 27-year Racine police veteran Arthel Howell to serve as the city's next police chief. The selection was unanimous. Howell was sworn in Monday, April 2nd before an overflow crowd, and becomes Racine's first African-American police chief.

"It's a historic event, but not based on race. Based on experience, leadership style and qualifications," Howell said.

Howell is the current Deputy Chief of Police in Racine. He was chosen based on a combination of his leadership experience, education, collaborative approach and other personal and professional qualities - amid some controversy.

Howell was one of three finalists for the position, when the only outsider pulled out. The commission was reportedly going to reopen the selection process, but did not, amid community calls that the commission be overhauled.

Howell's family can't help but think his selection is providential, as he's been called "chief" since his father, now deceased, started calling him that when he was two years old. "It stuck just like glue, and he went all through life being called 'chief.' A lot of people didn't even know his name. Some people still don't know his name," Howell's mother, Annie Howell said.

Annie Howell says her son is a God-fearing person who is fully-qualified for the position. Some others, who aren't related, agree. "I just want to make the community better for everyone," Howell said.

Chief Howell says he's been meeting with officers to get to know them on a personal level and encourage them to offer suggestions for making the police department function better. He says he's also working on policy issues related to burglary reduction.

Howell replaces chief Kurt Wahlen who retired in May.