Meet the officer: OPD’s Lt. Bernst

OKEECHOBEE — Lieutenant Justin Bernst was born in Fort Lauderdale, grew up in Okeechobee and spent his time as a youth playing baseball. He has been a resident of Okeechobee now for 30 years.

Lt. Justin Bernst

Lt. Bernst graduated from Okeechobee High School in 1999 with his favorite subject being calculus. His love for baseball continued into his teenage years but it was the “hanging out with friends” that Lt. Bernst enjoyed most about school. Like many students before him, Lt. Bernst’s least favorite aspect of school was waking up early in the morning.

After his graduation from high school, Lt. Bernst decided to further his education and studied forensic analysis with his favorite coursework being in genetics, advanced calculus and organic chemistry at Indian River State College and the University of Central Florida.

When asked about memorable moments while in college, Lt. Bernst began: “In 2001, while attending UCF, I had just finished an exam and walked to the student union to get lunch before my next class. I walked into the atrium in the student union and saw that they had lowered the massive projector screen in the center.” He then continued, “I had never seen the screen lowered before, and there were hundreds of students and staff gathered watching something. I got a view of the screen just in time to see the second plane impact the World Trade Center. That event steered me away from forensics and toward law enforcement.”

Lt. Bernst’s first occupation in the work force was in the fast-food industry while in high school and his worst job was shortly after in a pawn shop while in college. When asked why he wanted to be a law enforcement officer here in Okeechobee, Lt. Bernst replied: “I have spent 14 years here with the police department. I wanted to be an officer in the same community that I live in so that I have a vested interest in the safety and status of my own community. I feel that if I worked in a community in which I did not live, I might not care as much since I could go home to another town at the end of my shift.”

Lt. Bernst was then asked how his career created value in his life, to which he answered: “Seeing some of the worst in people has made me more appreciative of the good. It has also made me realize that there’s no point in stressing out about little insignificant matters.”

Lt. Bernst then credited his family – from which he is the first to serve in law enforcement – as his biggest influence in his career choice, stating, “My late grandfather, my mom and stepfather supported me when I was fresh back from college and wanted to become a cop. My wife for being as supportive and patient as anyone possibly could be and for teaching me how to iron my uniform when I was in the police academy.”

Lt. Bernst enjoys spending his spare time going out with his family and friends. He concluded the interview stating that he would “maybe” like to live in the future in order “to see how society will evolve and how far technology will advance, but I would never want to go back to a time that we already know about and events that have already taken place.”

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