For all of his life, Dan Hess has always wanted to be a leader; one that people would look up to and respect. And there was never any doubt in his mind that law enforcement would present the challenges he would need to accomplish that goal. “Going into law enforcement was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “I never really thought about any other career.”
Dan has always had a drive to learn and an aspiration to be the best. Those aspirations have resulted in an impressive diploma on his wall, the result of a 10-week course at the FBI National Academy. He was one of four candidates chosen to participate at the academy from Wisconsin. “It was really quite an experience to be able to go to the FBI academy,” he said. “I felt very honored to participate in this program.”
Rhinelander has always been home to Dan. His mother, Karen, worked for more than 20 years at the Rhinelander Animal Shelter and his dad, Denny, was a well known barber in town before he passed away. After graduating from Rhinelander High School, Dan immediately enrolled at Nicolet College in the police science course. When he graduated from that program, he worked for a stint at the Rhinelander Police Department as a dispatcher. “I liked dispatching,” he said. “That job has a lot of challenges and I learned a lot there.”
For two years Dan worked with the Rhinelander PD, and then was hired at the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department as a patrolman. After five years, he shifted gears and became a detective, investigating drug cases. In 2002, he became a detective sergeant, and by 2006 was running the drug unit. In 2006 he was promoted to lieutenant, and to this day enjoys the responsibilities of that position. In addition, he is also the fleet manager for all the squad cars, manages the 911 center with a staff of 14, and also coordinates the court service division, scheduling prisoner transports and warrant issuing. He played a role in the new radio system the county implemented recently as well. In all those capacities he feels solid leadership plays a huge role. “There is definitely good leadership and bad,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a good leader, one that people respect and look up to.”
And teaching leadership skills is an integral part of the FBI National Academy’s curriculum. According to the agency’s website the first class of 23 recruits graduated from the program in July of 1935. Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd of the notorious Dillenger gang played a part in the formation of the academy. In June of 1933, three police officers and one FBI agent escorting a prisoner through a Missouri train station were killed when Floyd and other criminals opened fire. That bloody incident was to become known as the Kansas City Massacre. Following public outcry, FBI agents were given the authority to make arrests and to carry weapons for the first time. However, it was decided that if FBI agents were to be armed they needed a place to practice marksmanship. In 1934 the United States Marine Corp division opened their Quantico, Virginia training base to the FBI, allowing them use of their firing range. From that point on the academy grew and today encompasses 385-acres in the Virginia country side.
Qualified candidates come from every corner of the United States, and many participants are also from countries around the globe. As times have changed so has the academy. Today it includes an extensive library, a large dormitory complex, a vehicle driving course, a modern laboratory and “Hogan’s Alley” a realistic, simulated town that teaches candidates investigative techniques, crime scene processing, firearm skills and even tactical criminal maneuvers.
Another interesting challenge is “the yellow brick road” a grueling physically demanding course through a hilly, wooded trail built by the Marines. Participants must climb over walls, run through creeks, jump through simulated windows, scale rock faces and more. “Part of the program is physical fitness,” said Dan. “I got into pretty good shape by the time I graduated.”
Each course is 10-weeks long, and there are four that run throughout the year. Dan’s classes started last September and he graduated in December. The hardest part about that for this dedicated law enforcement officer was being away from his family, which includes his wife Jodie, and his children Kaylee, 19, Cassidy, 17 and Brandon, 13. “I did get to come home for Thanksgiving,” he said. “But it was hard being away. I was proud of my family though. They gave me lots of support and really came through while I was gone.”
Classes taught at the academy cover a wide range of subjects and participants can choose what they want to study. Dan chose six classes including investigative strategies, public speaking, media relations, leadership development, labor law and physical fitness. Other classes include behavioral and forensic sciences, understanding terrorism/terrorist mindsets, communication techniques, firearm training and tactical driving procedures. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the course is meeting people from all over the world and making contacts that can span a lifetime. “I met so many people while I was at the academy,” said Dan. “We live in a global society now and to know other law enforcement officials from other parts of the country and the world is really beneficial. There are many times when we have to cooperate with other agencies and departments and it helps when you know someone at these agencies.”
His boss, Sheriff Jeff Hoffman, agrees. “Dan’s training and experience in the very challenging curriculum of the FBI Academy is of great benefit to this sheriff’s office,” he said. “Dan’s demonstrated leadership and graduation from the courses will greatly benefit the very dedicated and capable staff who serve the citizens of Oneida County. The FBI Academy graduates provide a great network of professionals across the globe and we have found this to be huge opportunity for information sharing and control of crime.”
So what’s next for this ambitious and dedicated public official? “Well, now that I have college credits through this course, I’d like to continue with that and get a college degree,” he said. “But I’m also very proud to be part of Oneida County’s law enforcement team. And I know the skills I learned at the FBI National Academy will be a big benefit here and that will result in a safer community for everyone.”
Associate Editor Mary Ann Doyle is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.