Name: Justin Bender
Division of State Patrol (DSP)
Walk us through your typical day at work.
My typical day at work is anything but typical. Technical Reconstruction Unit (TRU) members are on call 24/7 and may have to respond to a crash or crime scene at a moment’s notice. These calls could range from a few hours to a couple days, and the case follow-up from these calls can be very extensive. This is a very unique dynamic that can put either professional or personal plans on hold.
TRU members carry an extensive case load, and their schedules have to be flexible. My plan for the day looks like this: I am going to start my day by drafting a technical report and using computer aided drawing software to diagram a scene. Then, I will take some time to peer review someone else’s report. After that, I will obtain a search warrant to download the “black box” in a car and complete a follow-up interview with a driver that caused a fatal crash. After lunch, I will prepare for the training course I am running next week for a local department on how a 3D scanner could be utilized for a crime scene. After that, I will load up my car for the testing that I am conducting tonight with multiple other agencies to measure the headlamp profile for a snowmobile crash using a light meter. Then again, my phone just rang at 10 a.m. and my to-do list is now on hold—I’ve been called out to map a fatal crash three hours away. There is always tomorrow.
What’s something that tends to surprise people to learn about your job?
TRU members attend an extensive amount of training. On average, most have successfully completed more than 1,000 hours of formal training alone in the field of accident reconstruction.
TRU members must become accredited by the Accreditation Commission of Traffic Accident Reconstruction (ACTAR). After being selected to “sit” for the exam, one must successfully complete the two parts (8 hours) consisting of a theory portion and a practical case study. The members of our unit are 14 of only 30 approximate accredited reconstructionists in the Wisconsin.
TRU members have to apply the principles of math and physics almost every day. TRU members assist at several crime scenes and officer involved shooting scenes.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had while working at WisDOT?
Solving a hit and run case involving a vehicle vs. bicycle. The bicycle rider was training for an IRONMAN competition, and even though it was a miracle he survived the crash, he got back into his training and was able to still compete in another IRONMAN.
I worked this case for five days and nights straight before we found the involved vehicle. I will never forget the gratitude and appreciation the bicyclist showed me when I visited him to get his DNA sample to match DNA found on the vehicle. It was that moment in my career when I realized what I do really does make a difference.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy the outdoors and exploring/learning with my wife and kids – that is why I live in the Wisconsin Northwoods! It just depends on the season, because we love them all. You will find us either ice fishing, snowshoeing, hunting, camping, kayaking, hiking, bike riding, picking thimbleberries, pickling northern pike, or just exploring somewhere in the UP (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). I also work out consistently, try to be health conscious, and am an active member of my community and church.
Who has influenced you most in your career? Why?
My dad is the hardest worker I have ever met in my entire life. I know what manual labor is and have an appreciation for it. He never complains, and he never quits. He has been a construction foreman for more than 35 years and has exhausted his body to the breaking point just to provide for his family.
My mom wears her heart on her sleeve and is never afraid to stand up for what is right. She instilled in me that I can do anything I put my mind to in life. She has strong values and has been very supportive of my path in life.
My wife is the strongest and most caring person I know. She has supported my career vision and has sacrificed her career endeavors to provide for and be there for our kids. Family is everything, and she embodies what it means to be a mother, wife, community leader and helping hand. Every decision I have made in regards to my career has been with her and my kids in mind.
What words of advice do you have for young people starting their career?
Never do anything for money! There is not a dollar amount or title I would take in exchange for my pride, passion and the determination I have for the work I do.
Surround yourself with coworkers and friends that are positive and make you better and make you feel good.
Don’t miss the details that matter – most people overestimate the potential benefits of various decisions and greatly underestimate the risks.
There is nothing guaranteed in life, and you are not entitled anything. Respect is earned and things in life that are worth achieving don’t come without sacrifice or hard work.
Interested in working at the Wisconsin State Patrol? Learn more about the application process today.