By Don Lowe

New Joplin Chief of Police Richard Pearson believes he has worked hard for the opportunity now firmly in front of him. 

“I’ve been preparing myself for a position such as police chief for many years,” recalls Chief Pearson, who relocated to Joplin, Missouri, after spending virtually his entire life in the Louisville, Kentucky, area. “I attended the Southern Police Institute in 2001, then went on to attend the FBI National Police Academy in 2006. 

“I continued my education during my tenure with the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) in preparation to continue to move forward into positions of higher responsibility.” 

As for what led him to the Show-Me State, Chief Pearson says, “I began looking for police chief positions, and when I found Joplin and began to research the city, I knew this was a place I wanted to live and work. 

“I believe all the work and preparation that I’ve done over the past 30 years has brought me to my current position.” 

In thinking about how he opted to choose law enforcement as his career path, Chief Pearson reflects, “I realized I wanted to be a police officer when I was 12 during a career fair at school. 

“I was so impressed with a police officer who spoke to me that I knew it’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I joined a police cadet unit (15-21 years old), and then began my career as a police officer at 21 years old.” 

While he’s the one in charge, Chief Pearson doesn’t operate with a “my way or the highway” approach and affirms, “My leadership style is inclusive. 

“I’ve been meeting with each officer and commander of the Joplin Police Department (JPD) to get their input as to what is going on in the city and their views on the best ways to move forward.” 

Chief Pearson maintains, “I believe having buy-in from all employees will make any decision I make the most informed and well-rounded. I’ve also been meeting with residents, the media, business leaders, school leaders, social service providers and local community groups. 

“Everyone should have their voices heard and their needs met. The role of the police is to protect citizens, property and to keep the peace. This is best accomplished through a team approach, which includes stakeholders from all walks of life.” 

It’s all about being fully transparent, and Chief Pearson suggests, “I want everyone who works with me to know they can talk to me about anything that concerns them, and it won’t fall on deaf ears. 

“I make myself available to answer any question that my co-workers have as honestly and completely as possible. My motto is, ‘You may not always like what I say, but you will always know you heard the truth.’” 

Chief Pearson is ecstatic to be here and says, “I’m very excited at the opportunity to be in this position and create relevant change. 

“I can implement many of the ideas that I have, with the help of my co-workers and outside partners to help make things better for the community. This is my joy and passion. It’s what has kept me in law enforcement all these years. I love the idea of being the cause of someone else’s life getting better.”

Joplin Chief of Police Richard Pearson Fast Facts

Age: 52 years old 

Spouse: Gina Pearson 

Years Married: 14 

Children: No human children but two Basset Hounds, if that counts (LOL). 

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky 

High School Alma Mater and Year Graduated: Western High School in Louisville, 1989 

College Degree: Attended University of Louisville for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Received Doctorate in Criminal Justice from Saint Leo University in 2023 

Career: Worked for the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) for 22 years (1993-2015), retiring at the rank of lieutenant. Held a variety of roles, including administrative, uniform patrolman, shift supervisor, plainclothes detective, narcotics lieutenant, meth lab team commander, honor guard commander and property room commander. Taught criminal justice courses at Ivey Tech Community College in Sellersburg, Indiana (2015-2022). Worked with the Jefferson County Public Schools police in Louisville (2022). 

Hobbies: Working out, fishing, reading, softball, horseback riding, camping and volunteering at a Basset Hound rescue 

Favorite Food: Pot roast and potatoes 

Favorite Police TV Shows: “Miami Vice,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Law & Order” and “The Wire”