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JPD's Chief Pearson Works To Understand New City and It’s Residents

Joplin Police Chief Rich Pearson
The City of Joplin
Joplin Police Chief Rich Pearson

Pearson has held numerous positions in law enforcement in a career that has spanned 31 years, however, this is the first time he's been a Police Chief.

He revealed Saturday at an event hosted by Joplin’s NAACP at the Boys and Girls Club that when interviewing for the position he was “just being himself” because he didn’t think he had a chance of being hired.

Joplin Police Chief Richard Pearson has been on the job for nearly two months. During that time he’s held community meet and greets, including an event on Saturday. KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro was there and filed this report.


Pearson is the first African American Chief of Police in Joplin’s 151-year history. At 52 years-old he’s already worked a career in Louisville, Kentucky before retiring in 2015 and says he was looking for an opportunity to be the chief of police as a sort of second act.

Speaking at Joplin’s Boys and Girls Club at a get-together hosted by the Joplin’s NAACP Saturday afternoon Pearson says that life experiences lead him to a career in law enforcement.

Pearson notes a chat with a police officer when he was a child helped set him on the career path that he finds himself on 40 years later.

“And a county police officer came in and his brass was all shiny and twinkly, his shoes were at a high shine. I thought he was just the most enormous thing I’d ever seen.

And he stopped and he gave me his full undivided attention for about 30 minutes and I pestered the heck out of him asking question after question but he never shooed me off. I was his total focus.”

Pearson says that staffing at Joplin PD has improved and expects the department to be nearly fully staffed at 132 this summer.

Also, he had this message for the Joplin community, quote, “You may not always like what you hear me say, but you’ll know it’s the truth.” unquote.

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Since 2017 Fred Fletcher-Fierro has driven up Highway 171 through thunderstorms, downpours, snow, and ice storms to host KRPS’s Morning Edition. He’s also a daily reporter for the station, covering city government, elections, public safety, arts, entertainment, culture, sports and more. Fred has also spearheaded and overseen a sea change in programming for KRPS from a legacy classical station to one that airs a balance of classical, news, jazz, and cultural programming that better reflects the diverse audience of the Four States. For over two months in the fall of 2022 he worked remotely with NPR staff to relaunch to an NPR style news and information website.

In the fall of 2023 Fred was promoted to Interim General Manager and was appointed GM in Feburary of 2024.