Rebecca Wendt knew she was interested in a career in law enforcement when she started working as a minor buying alcohol for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at just 16 years old. When she turned 18, she became a camera operator for these operations until she went off to college.
But Wendt wasn’t gone long before returning to law enforcement to work as a 911 dispatcher. After three years in this role, in 2007, Bryan Police Department hired her as an Investigative Assistant to work alongside detectives, investigate misdemeanor cases, and assist with crime scenes as needed.
By October of 2008, Wendt was doing so well that Bryan PD asked if she would become a full-time Crime Scene Investigator, and they offered to send her to training to prepare her for this new role. Wendt started to take classes through the Texas Forensic Science Academy (TFSA) at Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), and she became one of the first people to receive TEEX’s Forensic Technician, Forensic Investigator Levels I and II and Major Crimes professional certificates.
Of her experience in the Texas Forensic Science Academy, Wendt says, “TEEX has an absolutely amazing program, and they are constantly improving it. The instructors know their stuff. I’ve used every single class, and I still refer to my manuals. You could take a brand new CSI and put them through the whole academy, and when they finished, they’d be able to work a crime scene completely by themselves from the initial arrival on the scene, to collecting evidence, to capturing photographs, to processing latent prints, and even to testifying in a professional manner in the courtroom. I frequently testify in court, and they teach you things that you don’t think of, like your body language and voice fluctuation. It really helps.” Especially influential to her were the Forensic Photography classes as well as the Basic Crime Scene Investigation, Latent Print Processing, Bloodstain Pattern Analysis and Courtroom Testimony classes.
In January of this year, after 14 years in the Bryan PD Crime Scene Unit, Wendt was promoted to Crime Scene Unit Supervisor. This promotion is groundbreaking as Wendt is both a woman and a civilian. Wendt explains that because law enforcement is a male-dominated industry, it is less common to see women in supervisor roles. Additionally, CSI units are comprised of either civilians, who are hired directly into Crime Scene Units and do not carry guns, or sworn officers, who work their way through the academy. Wendt describes the challenges of being a woman and a civilian in this line of work, saying, “As I worked my way from being a brand new investigator and then jumped headfirst into working with the guys, there are a lot of times I am the only female around. I have a wonderful agency, so I don’t feel that I’m treated any differently at Bryan PD. I do know that being a supervisor, even a being a CSI, can be challenging at times, but I’m excited for the challenge and eager to learn additional skill sets.”
Wendt credits TEEX with playing a pivotal role in her success. “If it wasn’t for TEEX, I really don’t think I’d be where I am today because they set the foundation for my training, my experience and also my networking. I think people often forget that through the classes, you get the training, but you’re also networking. You’re meeting other practitioners throughout the state of Texas and possibly even the world that you can reach out to for help. To this day, I still call Christine [Ramirez, Program Training Manager of the TEEX Forensic Science Academy], and ask her, ‘Hey have you seen this?’ or ‘What would you suggest on how to process this?’ and we kind of talk it through and work together. And having her as the foundation of TEEX’s program and writing the curriculum and all is just a phenomenal resource.”
Throughout her career, Wendt has won several prestigious awards for her work as a Crime Scene Investigator. In December of 2021, she was ranked number 36 out of 2,442 forensic examiners nationally through the U.S. Secret Service. Previously, in 2017, she won the Margaret Lalk Victim Advocacy Award, and in 2013, she was named the Bryan Police Department’s Civilian of the Year. Beyond her work as a CSI, Wendt also serves her community as a Make-A-Wish volunteer.
Wendt concludes, saying, “I am so grateful for TEEX and the Bryan Police Department. When I started at Bryan PD, I had no experience, and the administration said, ‘Rebecca, we will send you to training as long as you stick with us and work hard.’ TEEX’s training allowed me to complete those classes, and the program is every bit of why I am where I am today. Because someone took a chance on me and provided me with quality training, here I am. And I’m very, very grateful for the opportunity.”