Candidates Forte and Bernal answer questions on why each is running for County Sheriff

Interim Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte and former FBI special agent David Bernal run for County Sheriff in the November 6 election.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Race

By Brad Lucht

Voters have the choice of two experienced law enforcement officers when they vote for Jackson County Sheriff November 6.

David Bernal spent 13 years with the Kansas City Police Department, followed by 24 years as a special agent with the FBI.  Darrel Forte spent 31 years with the Kansas City Police Department, including over 5 years as chief. He is currently the acting sheriff, having been appointed in June by Jackson County Executive Frank White after former sheriff Mike Sharp resigned.

The Martin City Telegraph submitted a list of questions to both candidates.  Here are their replies.

Q. What led you to a career in law enforcement?

Bernal:  I began junior college initially entering an aviation program. As an elective course, I signed up for a law enforcement class. In that class I befriended a number of KCMO police officers attending classes via a federal grant. Their stories of their daily encounters while working on the streets of KCMO intrigued me. Based on this, I decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Forte:  I met a police officer near the corner of 76th and Monroe, Kansas City Missouri, when I was a sixth grade student. I was impressed by him spending more than two hours with me explaining the responsibilities and excitement of his position as an officer. After our conversation I was convinced that I would pursue a career in law enforcement.  In August 1985, my dream became a reality!

Q.  What accomplishment are you most proud of during your career?

Bernal:  There are many accomplishments in my career that I’m proud of. Overall however, one of the things I’m most proud of is the knowledge that I always served in the public’s best interest with respect, honor and integrity.

Forte:  A team was built during my nearly six year tenure as chief of police of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department that performed exemplary during periods of civil unrest in the Kansas City community.  Our training, attitudes and our respect for others prepared us for what was to come. While several other large metropolitan communities suffered personal physical injuries and property damage, Kansas City maintained civil order with no such injuries or property damage.  In fact, best as we could, we accommodated protestors when they were overcome by heat by providing air-conditioned busses and by providing bottled water.

Q. What do you consider your greatest strength?

Bernal:  I believe my greatest strength is my ability to talk to anyone and diffuse a difficult or stressful situation. I have the ability to stay calm under pressure, and be the problem solver that is needed to accomplish specific goals in a crisis situation. I’m able to develop strong and effective relationships with many individuals including other law enforcement officers, suspects, informants, members of the general public, etc. to accomplish any specific objective given.

Forte:  My ability to forgive.

Q. As you campaigned, was an issue raised that surprised you?  Why?

Bernal:  I don’t feel that there’s been an issue raised that has surprised me. Obviously, there are numerous issues in the Sheriff’s office regarding transparency, responsibility and accountability which are fairly straightforward. Once elected, I intend to address these issues, which I feel are basic expectations of the public I serve. They deserve a Sheriff who will serve with professionalism, honor and integrity.

Forte:  I was surprised by, as well as appreciate, the support that I received from all areas around the county.  I have been welcomed everywhere that I have attended. Residents desire an experienced, proven, competent leader. A leader that is accessible, responsive and a leader who cares.

Q.  As you have campaigned, what concern was identified to you most often?  How will you address that concern?

Bernal:  Lack of faith and confidence in the Sheriff’s office based on the shameful resignation of the previous sheriff has been the issue identified most often. I intend to address this concern by following through on the promises I’ve talked about from the beginning of my campaign, by bringing respect, dignity and accountability back to the leadership of the Sheriff’s office.

Forte:  Lack of previous leadership and corruption within the sheriff’s department.   I will bring 32 years (26 years in supervisory or management level positions) of local law enforcement experience to the sheriff’s department as well as a reputation for engaging other segments of the community.

Q.  What will be your legacy if you are elected sheriff?  How do you hope to be remembered?

Bernal:  My legacy as Jackson County Sheriff will be that I am able to restore a sense of public trust in the Sheriff’s office. I intend to do that through serving honorably, with professionalism, and with dignity and respect, and to ensure that the personnel of the department do the same. I hope to be remembered as a man who cared about his community enough to step up, run for an office where I knew I could make a difference, and have a positive impact on the lives of the citizens in my community.

Forte:  A succession plan that included the development of subordinates to ensure they are capable of ascending the sheriff’s department to uncharted levels of service, respect and relevance.   I hope to be remembered as someone who had a passion to serve the community as well as someone who made a positive contribution to the entire metropolitan area.

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