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Criminal Justice professor inspires students with array of professional experiences

Veteran law enforcement officer Dan German celebrates 40 years at Blinn College

May 5, 2016

Professor Dan German You never know what’s going to happen.

Cliché? Sure. But veteran Blinn College Criminal Justice Program Professor Dan German has proven for 40 years that it’s an idea worth reiterating. Because you never know what’s going to happen. Like the night he sprang an extra pair of kneecaps.

The year was 1975. It was midnight, during a routine patrol shift for the Bryan Police Department. Officers German and Ernie Wentrcek set out to investigate a prowler call in north Bryan, near the former home of Allen Academy preparatory school. The pair canvassed the area, but uncovered nothing suspicious. They approached the home where the prowler was reported and knocked on the door. Two women emerged and told the officers not to worry—it was just a ram.

German did a double take. 

“A what?” he blurted. German continued gathering information for his report when the 200-pound Allen Academy mascot rounded the corner.

“He was a big ol’ thing, and I couldn’t figure out where he could have come from,” German said.  “He was calm, just standing there, until he started walking toward me. I backed up, and he was about three feet away from me, when all of a sudden he reared up on his hind legs.”

The ram smacked German in the knees and sent him airborne. 

With two pounding kneecaps, German crawled backward toward his patrol car, avoiding a second blow. He wondered why his partner hadn’t offered him help. That’s when he spotted Wentrcek.

“He was hiding behind this little tree,” German said. “And he was laughing! I literally crawled—he never once helped me—all the way to the patrol car while he was doubled over laughing at me.”

Wentrcek radioed a lieutenant and teased, “German’s down! He’s been hit by a goat!”

“Now that made me mad because it wasn’t a goat, it was a 200-pound ram,” German said.

The lieutenant arrived with an animal control loop, and returned the mascot safely to his owners. Meanwhile, German got some ice for his knees, and a great story to tell.

“It was the worst injury in my six-year career as a police officer, but it was pretty funny,” he said.

German’s anecdotes are more than stories. They are true-to-life examples German uses to impress upon his students that they must adapt quickly to challenges in every law enforcement career, from police work to parole.

And to think, German had to be coaxed into a teaching career that has lasted 40 years this semester. Turns out Wentrcek does more than poke fun at his partner.

“It was Wentrcek who told me about the job opening,” German said. “I wasn’t crazy about it, but he said, ‘You know this stuff—you’re working in it.’”

Beginning in Spring 1976, German taught criminal justice courses on the Blinn College-Brenham campus two days per week, and spent the rest of the week on duty for Bryan Police Department. Fifteen years later, he moved to the College’s Bryan campus, where he continues to teach criminal justice.

“I love to teach these students,” German said. “That’s the reason I’ve been teaching for the past 40 years. It’s fun and it’s rewarding.”

Blinn offers Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science and Law Enforcement Technology degrees in criminal justice, as well as a Criminal Justice Corrections certificate. Blinn also offers a Basic Peace Officer Academy certificate through its partnership with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Central Texas Police Academy.

Students who complete the program are eligible for a variety of local, state and federal careers, including law enforcement, investigation, corrections operation, corrections counseling, a variety of court positions, government administration and probation. Similar careers are also available through private companies. The program offers established internships with Brazos Valley law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.

“I was petrified to teach,” German said. “But the job made sense. All I had to do was talk about my experiences. I also had great mentors to coach me through it.”

German said he would not be an instructor without the help of Dr. Donald Voelter, former Blinn district president; the late Carolyn Massey, former dean of Student Services; and Janet McNutt, Criminal Justice Program coordinator on the Bryan campus.

In his early teaching days, German led his students in restraint practices in the gym. In the parking lot, he taught them to calculate vehicle speed based on fresh skid marks German had made himself.

“When I wore out a set of tires on the skid test, I quit doing that,” German said, laughing. “Anybody can teach from the textbook, and you’ll get the same information over and over again. Real-world applications and personal experience are invaluable.”

After six years as a police officer, German decided to take his career in a new direction, and Wentrcek, once again, was the culprit. He hired German as a Brazos County juvenile probation officer, and gave him the tools and the freedom to develop initiatives the county had never seen before. As German climbed from court officer to deputy executive officer over his 25-year probation career, he implemented academic boot camps and intensive supervision programs that encouraged teens to stay in school and out of trouble.

“After I left as deputy director, I felt proud,” German said. “I felt like I had done some good things there. I made a much better probation officer than police officer. As a police officer, I was told I gave too many warnings—I always wanted to help people by giving them the opportunity to make amends.”

German impresses upon his students that to be successful, they must know their strengths and explore careers until they find the right fit.

“You have to like what you are doing and do it well,” German said. “In criminal justice, if you don’t have passion for your job, you aren’t going to treat the community well.”

In 2005, German became an investigator in the County Attorney’s Office and in 2007 he became a bailiff in the 361st District Court. In 2013, he retired, though not entirely. Having held two jobs for most of his life, German said he’s not ready give up teaching just yet.

“You work hard, you play hard, and you enjoy life,” German said. “I enjoy teaching and helping students find the work they want to do. It’s inspiring when I see students become successful police or probation officers. That’s how you know your work really matters.”