TULSA, Okla. — A&E has played host to the critically acclaimed show, “The First 48” for nearly 25 years. The show provides its audience with a detailed depiction of the investigative work that goes into solving homicides. Recently retired Sergeant Dave Walker was a staple on the show for the episodes captured in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Walker’s assertive demeanor while interrogating prospective criminals stood out, while his high success rate to solve homicides provided many families with the justice and closure they were looking for after losing a loved one. His passion, care, and mission of providing justice jumped out of the screen, while his fervent for removing bad people off the streets would fuel his outbursts during interrogations. Walker credits his solid team as the reason for having a strong department and a high success rate of ridding the streets of murderers.
Zenger News catches up with the retired sergeant to talk about life after “The First 48!”
Zenger: How is retirement treating you?
Walker: I kind of quit again. I went 2 years after I retired… it took me about 2 years to recover from the stress and anxiety and just getting old from that job. I took a job in the public school system, and recently quit that, so I’m back to being retired, reading, writing, and not doing any arithmetic. It’s good right now. My wife might tell you different. I’m getting some projects done and back to just trying to relax.
Zenger: Do you feel like having your job as a homicide detective on “The First 48,” televised and recorded something that added to the stress or helped show just how difficult your job was?
Walker: I don’t think the TV program added any stress to us as investigators. The people they had in place were wonderful. They were a part of our group. We had our huddles in the morning, talking about cases, and they would interject, and they became part of us. They never got in the way. I could never see a downside to what they were doing. The general public got to see how we do our business, how we really cared about the folks, and it’s a good thing or law enforcement and society in general.
Zenger: You guys are sometimes forced to investigate the murders of murderers, and drug dealers, and users, yet… that doesn’t matter. A person’s past or how they live their lives doesn’t matter when you guys’ spring into investigative active. I think it takes a special person to be able to do that.
Walker: That speaks volumes right there. It doesn’t matter what you did or who you were on the spectrum of society, you were a part of us at that moment. Somebody killed you, and we can’t allow that to happen. That was the mission. It wasn’t anything about who you were, it mattered how you ended up dead. I always say, in the gang world, I didn’t know what gang was what. We investigated the action of the individual. If they ended up dead because they were in a gang or if they were the Homecoming Queen, it didn’t matter to us. It was a case we had to solve, and I’ll tell you this, the families of everybody grieve the same. When you look into the face of these parents and relatives and tell them that their loved ones are dead and this is the reason why, it’s the same reaction. It didn’t matter what house you were sitting in.
Zenger: Obviously, some cases stick out more than others, but as a homicide detective, can you not allow these cases to dwell in your mind for too long before moving on?
Walker: That’s a good question, because we see such trauma to people and what we do to each other. It has to affect us, but it can’t determine how we go about the next one. We had some cases where we had four or five a night and you are just going from one scene to the next. You don’t really dwell on it until you quit and that’s when it kind of hits you. When you’re not doing something is when you have those moments where you say, “Wow, this was really bad.” Multiple murders at one scene, kids… it didn’t really hit me until I was done. It takes some adjusting.
Zenger: Would you say your job challenged your faith in humanity because unfortunately you had a front row seat to a lot of evil?
Walker: I’ve always said and will always say… I actually just texted this to a former reporter here that is now becoming a lawyer, “There is so much more good in people than there is evil, we just deal with evil.” Unfortunately, for the general public you see that evil on your TV. There is no show about the first 48, where the mom is cooking breakfast and the kids are going to school and getting A’s. That wouldn’t get ratings. But here in Tulsa, we solve them. We’re on the “The First 48” because we solve cases. If you were in St. Louis or Chicago where they weren’t solving a lot of these crimes then you wouldn’t put them on TV. Tulsa is a good place. I want to be an ambassador for the city. Come on down!
Zenger: There seemed to be great balance in the office, Jason White was more of the understanding guy, you seemed to be no nonsense… everyone seemed to have their own personality. Were you always like that or did being a homicide detective turn you into that?
Walker: No, there are basketball referees going back to 8th grade who will say, I get wronged, and I will let you know about it. You have to have a balance. There were times when they wouldn’t let me get in the room. They just know the whole thing would change. The dynamic would change and that wouldn’t get it done. Jason [White] is a negotiator and I’m kind of one of them guys that says, that doesn’t make any dang sense. I would always say, it’s okay for the public to see us get mad as long as we aren’t doing anything illegal. People that kill people, man, I get mad.
Zenger: Is there any part of the job that you miss?
Walker: People are always going to end up killing other people. That’s going to happen. I miss trying to predict who we must protect society from. If we can get the gun out of the hand of the one that’s going to be a school shooter. Get the ones that have shot at people and get them before they kill somebody. I miss that. I miss the intelligence part of it. Putting that together and saving lives that way. Unfortunately for us, my day started when someone died. We are a little behind the eight ball, but we certainly didn’t want that person to kill again, so that’s why we were after it so much. I think that’s part of the philosophy of why we were so successful.
Zenger: If you didn’t enter law enforcement, what path would Dave Walker have taken?
Walker: I would’ve loved to have been a baseball coach at any level. The way I ran my squad… I hate to say, I, because the whole team was great. You can’t have a whole team of pitchers. You can’t have a whole team that act like Jason White. You had to have some that act like me, some that were methodical like Nathan Schilling. The whole team just meshed so good. You had to have fresh bodies. Baseball staff has to have fresh bodies, we had to have fresh bodies in the homicide unit, so you have to manage it that way. Baseball is so close to what we did, I can see myself doing that. One of our kids is a high school baseball coach now, and I’d love to go down there and just help.
Zenger: We hear on the show, so and so will serve as the lead detective for this case. How is it determined who will serve as the lead detective on a case-by-case basis?
Walker: It came out like a lineup. Everybody is in the lineup, we had ten people, we put it up on the board and they rotated through. It wouldn’t matter who the starting pitcher was that day. If it was your day to be on the case and it was the mayor’s son that got shot and killed, you got it. That’s what I did. Everybody knew when they were coming up. Whatever they had to do, stay sober or not plan a vacation or whatever, that’s how they knew. We had people on deck, in the hole, and in the dugout. If you just got a case, you’d go in the dugout. Unfortunately, if we had four or five a night, you’re coming back up again, so it was just on a rotation basis.