Santa Clara’s Assistant Chief of Police Dan Winter knew he wanted to be involved in law enforcement before he even graduated from high school, he just didn’t have any idea how far he would go.
“A swap meet that I helped work at on the weekends [in high school], they hired off-duty LAPD and LA County Sheriff’s Officers,” said Winter. “I started interacting with them; they were kind of my mentors. I just enjoyed talking to them and hearing about how they enjoyed their work…they inspired me to go into police work.”
And he did. Right out of high school Winter joined the Long Beach Police Department as a Reserve Officer. He worked with the department for two years before he was hired at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“I went right into their academy,” said Winter. “I actually turned 21 when I was in the Sheriff’s Academy.”
Winter grew with the Sheriff’s Department, but when his family moved out of the Los Angeles area, he and his soon to be wife decided it was time to move to the Bay Area to be close to her family.
“I got a map of the Bay Area, and I started calling police departments that were hiring and Pacifica was the first one to pick me up and hire me,” said Winter.
Once he got to Pacifica, Winter knew he wanted more.
“I didn’t do college out of high school, I went right into police work,” said Winter. “Once I got to Pacifica I knew if I want[ed] to move up, even if I want[ed] to become a Field Training Officer, I [had] to get some college units.”
Winter earned his AA in Administration of Justice through extension classes for Ohlone College and then went to St. Mary’s to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Management. All while working full-time with the Pacifica Police Department.
In 1999, he joined the Santa Clara Police Department and decided he wasn’t done with school just yet.
“I knew I wanted to get an advanced degree in the law,” said Winter. “Growing up, people always said they thought I’d be an attorney. I don’t know, maybe I argued too much. I liked to have discussions with people.”
Winter scored in the top 15 percent in the nation on the LSAT test and graduated from St. Mary’s with a 3.89 GPA. It was enough to earn him a full-ride through Santa Clara’s law school.
“While I worked the graveyard shift on patrol, I was going to law school during the day and at night,” said Winter. “A couple weeks after I started law school my son was born, and then a couple years after that my daughter was born so I think we had two kids while I was in law school.”
Winter graduated Magna Cum Laude and passed the Bar Exam soon after graduating.
Today, in addition to serving as the Assistant Chief of Police for Santa Clara, Winter is also very involved with the community. He’s a member of Santa Clara Optimist Club, the Rotary Club and the Treasurer of the Schools Foundation.
“I’m a proud Santa Claran,” said Winter. “My kids are all Santa Clarans. This is our hometown, and we’ve been here, I’ve been here 18 years now…It’s a great city to live. Proud to live here; proud to work for the police department here; proud of the relationship that we have with the community.”
And that relationship extends to the Special Olympics, where he serves on the board for the Northern California Special Olympics and is one of the driving forces behind the Santa Clara Police Department’s annual fundraising for the Special Olympics.
“The last 18…19 years, I’ve been volunteering for Special Olympics…Every year I go up to the Summer Games at UC Davis,” said Winter. “[My family has] been coming with me for years and seeing the athletes and the events. My daughter, Sarah, is a full-fledged volunteer up there…all my kids have volunteered in different capacities over the years.”