COLUMBIA — During her 21 years with the Columbia Police Department, Dianne Bernhard rose from patrol officer to deputy chief, supervised the Youth Services Unit and served as the president of the Missouri School Resource Officer Association.
But the assignment she will remember most fondly, she said, was her eight years of horseback patrol.
"I love the interactions that I had with the citizens," she said.
Bernhard announced Thursday that she would retire from CPD to take a job as executive director of Concerns of Police Survivors — a national organization that supports the families of officers killed in the line of duty.
Bernhard knows what it's like to lose a colleague. She said the hardest day of her career was when Officer Molly Bowden was killed during a traffic stop in 2005.
"I'll never forget the sacrifice that she made for the citizens of the city," Bernhard said.
Bernhard joined CPD in 1992 as a patrol officer. Five years later, after serving as a detective and a community police officer, she was promoted to sergeant. In 2007, she was promoted to lieutenant and was responsible for daytime and evening patrols. She was promoted to deputy chief in 2012.
As executive director, Bernhard will lead an organization whose programs have helped 32,000 people, COPS public relations manager Sara Slone said.
Bernhard said part of what drew her to COPS is the organization's commitment to the police community.
"I wanted to do something for the law enforcement profession that has been so good to me," she said.