Brothers in arms retire from police force

by Dan Holland

For brothers Chuck and Randy Wilson, a tip to take a civil service test more than three decades ago led to lengthy careers with the Independence Police Department. Both retired in January: Chuck with 35 years of service, and Randy with 33.

In 1988, Charles Wilson, who later became the chief of police in Valley View Village, urged his son Chuck to take a civil service test for the Independence Police Department.

“I was in college at the time and had no aspirations of going into law enforcement, but I did well on the test and was offered a job,” recalled Chuck, who currently serves as a councilman in Valley View. “I thought I would give it a try; 35 years later, here we are.”

“There was a big hiring boom in the police department at the time,” he continued. “Independence was really starting to grow. Rockside Road wasn’t fully developed yet; it was a lot more rural at that time. Mayor Greg Kurtz was the one who hired both of us.”

Randy joined the department in 1990, based on Chuck’s urging.

“I was in the Marine Corps at the time, and I came home on leave in summer of 1990,” Randy recalled. “Chuck told me about the civil service test, so I took the test and I scored very high. They told me they would hire me if I got out of the service. They let me out of the Marine Corps three months early to go to the police academy.”

Chuck put his electronic engineering degree to work in the police department, performing computer work and technology-related duties as a technical sergeant. A case he was working on in 2001 led to additional opportunities.

“I needed some technical help from the U.S. Secret Service,” he explained. “I went to a lab in Washington D.C., and afterwards, they approached our chief, who knew I had gone to school for electronic engineering and had a technical background. So, they brought me onto the electronic crime task force with the Secret Service.”

He subsequently went through the Electronic Crimes Special Agent training program with the Secret Service and learned computer forensics, performing evidence recovery from computer systems.

“I would work out of their lab, and I had my own forensics machine in Independence,” he continued. “I did a lot of work for other police departments, and for the state attorney general’s office with the Secret Service. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”

He was later promoted to lieutenant and put in charge of the detective bureau and communications for the police department.

In June 2001, Randy moved into the detective bureau and was subsequently moved to the FBI Drug Task Force in 2002, where he remained for 22 years until his recent retirement. His career roles also included patrol officer, field training officer and SWAT team member.

Technology has been one of the biggest advancements the brothers have seen in police work from the time they began, including advancements in DNA testing, security camera systems and body-worn cameras.

“The main technology we used to rely on was fingerprints, but now everything we do is DNA and touch DNA [transferred from a person to an object],” said Chuck.

The brothers, who both grew up in Valley View, are part of the Wilson Feed Mill legacy; still operational in the historic 1855 building along Canal Road originally known as Alexander’s Mill.

Their great-grandfather, Thomas Wilson, purchased the mill in 1900 from the Alexander family. Their grandfather, Charles, worked in the family business his entire adult life.

Randy, who lives in Independence, said he is possibly considering a part-time security detail at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Cleveland.

Chuck plans on enjoying retirement with his wife, Linda, a 30-year teacher in Cuyahoga Heights Schools, who is eyeing retirement within the next two years.

“Chuck and Randy brought so much experience and knowledge to our department, and they will both be missed,” said Independence Police Chief Robert Butler. “They both cared deeply about this department and were always willing to help the community and their fellow officers. While both are retired, they are still part of the IPD family, and their time here will never be forgotten.” ∞

Lt. Chuck Wilson stands with Independence
Police Chief Robert Butler after his
badge was officially retired. Photo courtesy
of Ron Hollowell.

Det. Randy Wilson (middle) celebrates his retirement at a party with (l-r) retired police officer Joe Vanecek, Lt. Chuck Wilson, Det. Rich Paine, and Det. Gregory Smagola. Photo courtesy of Ron Hollowell.

On our cover (photo): Wilson brothers Chuck (l) and Randy, stand with their father Charles in 1992. Charles encouraged Chuck to take a civil service test and he, in turn, encouraged Randy to do the same. Chuck and Randy have served as police officers for 35 years and 33 years, respectively. Photo submitted.