KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dave Bernard can still name just about every victim in the dozens of homicide cases he worked on during his 31 years with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.
He retired in 2011 as a sergeant, spending most of those three decades in the department’s homicide unit helping solve such high-profile cases as the Precious Doe murder.
He was with the department in 1993 when the city first hit 153 homicides, the record for most in one year.
Monday, the city tied that record. This time there are more than 70 days left in the calendar year, meaning the city is likely to surpass 153 and set a new all-time high.
“It looks like we’re sailing through uncharted waters at this point,” Bernard said Monday.
Bernard said there could be a lot of factors leading to the increase in homicides in 2020. From distrust with the police, the COVID-19 pandemic adding stress to people’s lives and issues with conflict resolution.
Bernard admitted there is no easy solution to solve and prevent homicides. He said it will take time to turn the tide. It begins with rebuilding trust, getting guns off the streets and finding ways to generate more tips.
“If [witnesses] don’t come forward with the information, these cases, a lot of times, stall out,” Bernard explained. “Especially now in the times we’re in with the distrust of the police and the defund the police movement, it’s even worse. We have to come together in order to solve these crimes.”
With the cases piling up, Bernard said it’s easy for detectives, forensics personnel and others to get overwhelmed. He said he would always try to boost morale among detectives when he worked for the department by giving them help and being a buffer between detectives and the command staff.
He said even under the pressure of solving so many homicides, detectives in the homicide unit choose to be there.
“They want to be there because they know it’s a 24-hour a day job with a continual workload. Those kinds of people, they enjoy that, to a certain extent,” he explained.
Bernard told 41 Action News that detectives find motivation every time they solve a homicide.
“It’s intensely satisfying [to solve a murder]. It’s the crowning jewel of all the hard work you’ve done. And I say you, meaning a squad of detectives because one detective doesn’t work a case and solve it, it’s a team effort,” Bernard pointed out.
This year, several children have died in shootings. Bernard said those are the hardest for detectives to handle.
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.