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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Almost two decades ago, the city of Omaha appointed its first African-American police chief.

“I have always been very proud of my racial identity and I recognize that you have to have a very strong sense of yourself,” said Thomas Warren, retired police chief of Omaha.

Thomas Warren made his way into Omaha history as the town’s first African-American police chief in December 2003. Warren says he never really thought about being a chief, until what Bob Armstrong, the nationally recognized director of the Omaha Housing Authority, gave him the idea his head.

“The fact that he even expressed such confidence that I would have the capacity to take on the job really gave me the idea that it is possible,” said Warren.

Warren also enlisted the help of longtime North High School principal Gene Haynes. Haynes was the first African-American basketball head coach in PAHO and Warren was on his high-tech team.

“I am in awe of what he’s capable of and he’s one of my favorites among many,” said Haynes.

Warren had other role models and mentors, some of whom were pioneers in the Omaha Police Department.

“A guy named Monroe Coleman, Monroe was the first African American in the city of Omaha to achieve the rank of deputy chief. Then, Pitmon Foxall, Pitmon Foxall was the first African American to hold the post of Director of Public Safety in the city of Omaha. Having people like Deputy Chief Coleman and Director of Public Safety Foxall as examples convinced me that law enforcement was a viable career, ”said Warren

An Omaha public library is named after another role for Chief Warren. It was Charlie Washington who spoke to Warren about the political environment surrounding the leadership position in Omaha law enforcement.

“Charlie played a really big role in really educating me on how to navigate this environment,” Warren said.

Warren went on to earn a masters degree from the UN, got promotions and worked in police administration.

“I wanted to make sure I had a foundation that was needed to be able to function as a law enforcement director and then you know I just worked my tail,” Warren said.

This hard work has paid off. Warren rose to the top of the Omaha Police Department and he never forgot all the advice he received along the way.

“I am very satisfied to work with our youth and our young adults and our young professionals. Because I have been fortunate to have mentors to be role models, it is important that we invest in the next generation of leadership, ”said Warren.

Warren retired after 24 years in the police service and is currently president and CEO of the Urban League of Nebraska.

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