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In the aftermath of the recent officer-involved shooting, a number of questions and concerns have been raised within our community. As the investigative process proceeds under the oversight of the State of Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, a full investigative report will be posted online after this investigation is reviewed via the District Attorney’s Office.

Following the passage of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 409, members of agencies directly involved in use of force incidents (that result in fatalities), cannot serve as the lead investigative agency during such investigations. Oversight of this investigation was therefore immediately transferred to an outside agency (DCI in this case).

While DCI administrators have taken the lead in overseeing the investigative process, as the appointed leader of the Racine Police Department, there is a communitywide expectation that I will be visible, accessible and ultimately accountable to the broader community throughout this entire process. For the Shannon family, such accessibility was quickly manifested when I took a call from an immediate family member less than two hours after this event occurred. Such an open and direct line of communication is not likely present in most communities; however, this is what makes Racine unique. Further illustrating this open communication and accessibility, members of the immediate family were invited with me in person within a few hours of incident. At this time, family members were provided with additional information regarding the investigative process, and they were formally introduced to the lead DCI investigators that were called in to investigate this matter.

Within 24 hours of the initial meeting with family, a subsequent invitation was extended for family members to join me as I met with a group of local pastors who had received inquiries regarding this critical incident. This offer was accepted and additional procedural information was shared with the immediate family at that time.

Although members of the Shannon family have had (and where appropriate, will continue to have) an open line of communication with my office throughout this process, the good faith extended to this family was temporarily overshadowed by protests which have preceded the investigative process.

As law enforcement practitioners, we are sworn to protect the constitutional right of peaceful assembly. As citizens recently assembled at the Safety Building and City Hall, our officers protected their rights in a calm, respectful and professional manner. While the lines of communication with the Shannon family have been open, and family members have been informed of Wisconsin legislation that prohibits Racine police personnel from leading this investigation, many who protested did not appear to be informed of legislation that governs the investigative process.

In sharing this procedural information with the broader community, I am hopeful that moving forward, any remaining confusion or misinformation regarding the investigative process will be eliminated.

In addition to being attentive to the emotional needs of a grieving family, and in addition to fulfilling my constitutional duty to protect the right of public to peacefully assemble, it is also my responsibility to attend to the professional and personal needs of the men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our community safe. Last year, 125 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States. An additional six deaths occurred during the initial days of 2018.

In spite of the dangers associated with this profession, honorable people continue to sign-up to stand in the gap to protect the law-abiding citizens of our community and other communities throughout the nation.

During a planned press briefing Monday, the community will learn additional information regarding this event. The DCI investigation, however, remains ongoing. The final outcome of this investigation will become available to the public at a later date.

As our community navigates through the days and weeks ahead, and as the independent external investigation proceeds, I ask for your patience, trust in, and respect for the process until all facts are known. I also ask for your continued support and prayers for the sworn men and women who serve our community. This hard-working group of individuals have received death threats on social media in the aftermath of this event. Such threats must be taken seriously, so I appeal for cooler heads to prevail.

As the Shannon family prepares to put their loved one to rest, I ask for your prayers and support for this family. A component of supporting the family however will require that their grief is not exploited or otherwise exacerbated as we await the completion of the investigative process.

Thank you in advance for your patience.

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Arthel “Art” Howell is chief of police for the City of Racine.