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AMERICAN VALUES: Small town marshal details what other cops can learn from his ‘old school’ policing

AMERICAN VALUES: Small town marshal details what other cops can learn from his 'old school' policing
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A small town marshal said his key to successful policing is through strong community ties and treating law enforcement as a public service that goes beyond just stopping crime. 

“We just need to help each other out, and by doing that your community can grow and come together,” Noel Marshal Randy Wilson told Fox News. 

“Then you don’t just have your law enforcement looked at as a badge and a gun and authority,” he added. “Now, it’s your neighbor as well as a law enforcement officer.”

Wilson has worked in law enforcement for over 30 years, and in 2019 was elected marshal of Noel, Missouri, a small town in the Ozarks with a population under 2,000. One of the few remaining local marshals in the state, Wilson is responsible for all general law enforcement duties in Noel. He also serves as floodplain administrator, maintains the streets and helps the mayor with many issues at City Hall.


In April, the Missouri National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials honored Wilson with the statewide “Peace Officer of the Year” award.  

Wilson said his style of policing is “old school” and focuses more on fostering personal relationships with residents. 

Each morning and afternoon, Wilson attends Noel Elementary drop-off and pick-up to help kids in and out of school and spend time checking in with parents. Throughout the day, locals drop by his office on Main Street with issues ranging from needing help with a job search to needing a ride across town.

“You’d be surprised how many people have come up asking me for advice,” Wilson said. “I feel like a barber sometimes.”

“I have people come in my office, ‘Do you have a minute?’ It has nothing to do with the law, they just need someone to talk to,” he added. “That’s what we’re there for, that’s part of public service.”


The small town has struggled in recent months after Tyson Foods shut down its Noel poultry plant in October, which employed 1,500 workers, including nearly a third of Noel’s residents. 

Wilson most commonly deals with crimes involving drugs and domestic assault, but with hundreds left unemployed after the factory closed, he anticipated a rise in thefts. Additionally, a drop in tax revenue forced the town to make budget cuts, and Wilson had to downsize his team to include just two other full-time deputies. 

“I thought the crime rate would actually go up further than what it has,” Wilson said. “But I’ve got some good deputies, and we’ve tried to do what we can to patrol and keep that down.”

“So far, we’ve done a pretty good job of that,” he added. “We’ve not seen what I thought might happen, and I’m very happy with that.”

Wilson was named 2023’s “Peace Officer of the Year” by the Missouri National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. (Teny Sahakian/Fox News )

He attributes their success to strong community ties. 

“In a small town, especially this area here, we’ll get a lot more cooperation,” Sergeant Travis Sheppard told Fox News. “We can put stuff out there on Facebook, ‘Do you recognize this person?’ and we’re going to get a lot more leads, where in places like Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis, you won’t get that too much.” 

Becoming a trusted figure in town makes it easier to spot and defuse potential problems before they occur, the marshal said. 

“We get along with pretty much everybody around here,” Wilson told Fox News. “Everybody is your neighbor here. You don’t have to treat them like criminals, even though we have some that may not be doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

marshal car in noel missouri

Marshal Randy Wilson said law enforcement officers need to return to thinking of policing as “public service” and do more to help their communities beyond just pursuing crime. (Teny Sahakian/Fox News)


“Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes a little respect and kindness will go a lot further than coming in there trying to show authority,” he added. “They already know you have authority when you walk in the door or when you pull them over.”

While this sort of community policing approach still exists in some areas, Wilson said more officers need to “get back to being a public servant” and “helping in other areas other than just the criminal.” 

“If the government is not going to help you, whether they can or can’t, then we need to help each other out as a community,” he said.

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