Dave Bjerga, a former Crow Wing County deputy and a longtime Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator will retire from the BCA Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Bjerga, a 1976 Brainerd High School graduate, began his law enforcement career as a deputy and investigator in Crow Wing County in 1981. After joining the BCA in 1990, he served as field agent, head of the agency’s northern Minnesota office, assistant superintendent and briefly as interim superintendent.
Bjerga, 55, said he’ll take some time off during the holidays and conduct a self-assessment before he decides what he’d like to do in the future.
“It feels good,” the Motley native said of his decision to retire, noting a career in law enforcement is one that requires officers to be on call 365 days a year.
While with the BCA, he investigated the 1999 killing of Katie Poirier, a 19-year-old Moose Lake convenience store clerk, and the 2003 murder of Dru Sjodin of Pequot Lakes, who was a 22-year-old college student in Grand Forks, N.D.
He told the Star Tribune the unsolved cases he still thinks about include the 2001 murder of Rachel Anthony, a Pine River Liquor Store clerk and the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling.
Bjerga said he periodically would ask younger officers to take a look at his unsolved cases, hoping that a fresh set of eyes might detect a clue he had missed. In working with young law officers, he encouraged them to stick with the challenging cases.
“Stay with it,” he advised them. “Just never give up. Don’t forget every one of those victims has a family that expects a resolution. Take nothing for granted. The most insignificant clue could solve the case.”
Compassion for victims and their families is another big part of the job, Bjerga said.
“These are life-changing events that we go to,” he said. “These families and these individuals will never be the same.”
During his time as a Crow Wing County deputy, he served under longtime Sheriff Charles Warnberg, Sheriff Frank Ball and Dick Ross, who went on to serve as sheriff after Bjerga left the department.
“It was a great experience,” Bjerga said of his time in Crow Wing County. Sheriff Warnberg gave us some freedom. He allowed me to make a lot of decisions on my own. I had some really good mentors in Ross and Warnberg and Ball.”
Ross remembered Bjerga as a very thorough deputy with people skills and a good sense of humor.
Ball said Bjerga was exceptionally bright and analytical but very young looking. He excelled in child abuse and sexual assault cases, which were coming to the forefront at that time.
“He’s one of the smartest cops I’ve ever met in my life,” Ball said.