Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Art Howell Chosen As Police Chief

Artist rendering of JT's front page photo showing "elated"
PFC announcing new Police Chief Art Howell
The Racine Police and Fire Commission announced Tuesday they were appointing Lt. Art Howell as Racine Police Chief. Their choice is not much of a surprise to local leaders who saw Howell as the obvious choice even before the 6 month search began...it was perhaps a surprise to the commission since they tried so hard not to pick him.

The Siren begins by congratulating Howell as well as Lt. Carlos Lopez - two hometown guys who made it through the selection process to be the finalists. Having a new Police Chief who came up through the ranks in Racine seems like a good fit all around.

As for the PFC...well that was a clusterfuck of gigantic proportions - an expensive embarrassment that has not been completely revealed yet.

The search for a new chief cost the city more than $20,000 when they opted to hire a headhunting firm. (We aren't totally faulting the search firm...they came up with 20 candidates - arguably a good thing to confirm Howell and Lopez were truly qualified by comparison.)

However, it was the commission who chose Howell, Lopez and a guy from Massachusetts (who just happened to know resurrected Police Chief Kurt Whalen) as the final three. When the Massachusetts guy dropped out, the commission made the bizarre decision to reopen the search - as if they didn't really appreciate choosing between the two minority candidates now that the white guy had bailed.

Naturally, the shit hit the fan. Community leaders demanded to know the reason - the commission wouldn't say. Who made the motion to reopen the search? The commission wouldn't say. The minutes of the proceedings were requested. The commission withheld them - citing the personal well-being of the commission members.

(More than one person who attended the spartan public proceedings of the PFC said the stench of racism filled the room - confirming appearance probably matched the actions of a majority of commission members.)

As the community awaits the open records request filed by the Journal Times to learn what really happened - it behooves us to point out that one of the commission shills, Marie Black, will see her term up for reappointment in May of this year - Mayor Dickert must not reappoint her.

Black is a campaign supporter of Van Wanggaard - a conflict of interest - and went along with his wishes and those of commission member, Charles Johnson - another campaign supporter of Wanggaard's. This triad of cronyism compromises the integrity of the Police and Fire Commission in a way that is clearly evident in how they botched the search for the Police Chief.

Black consented to the withholding of the commission's public records and she must be first to go. There are plenty of good, independent community members who will not allow their personal and political agendas to cloud their judgement and behavior.

Lastly, since the JT gets so pissy when the Siren uses one of their photographs - particularly when it is used for mockery or satire - the front page photo of the PFC is perhaps the best and most hilarious visual example of how "thrilled" they were with their choice of Police Chief. We asked a friend to draw the Siren's dear readers a picture of it for your enjoyment...you can see the original for yourself online.