Servant leadership inspires alum in law enforcement career
Dr. John Lohrfink ’06 took multiple paths to get to SOU, but his latest one is predicated on servant leadership. Growing up in a suburban town north of New York City, he got involved with team sports in high school but also volunteered with his local fire department. He signed up to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) his senior year but had to wait until his eighteenth birthday to earn his EMT certification. After graduation, he began his life’s adventure as a freshman at George Mason University in Virginia. It was a large university with some class sizes of 300 plus students, which did not work well with his participative personality and experiential learning style. He subsequently moved back to New York and became a Paramedic at age 20.
Because of his family’s background as educators, John yearned for higher education. He and his wife moved to Ashland in 1998, and he started school part-time at SOU while working as a Paramedic in rural Siskiyou County. Initially, he took a few general education courses but settled on criminal justice with an emphasis in forensics. “Dr. Lee Ayers stood out as an outstanding professor in my field. I and a small group of students helped to pioneer the forensics emphasis as part of the CCJ degree,” said John. Lore Rutz-Burri also stood out to him in the criminal law realm, and former law enforcement officers Dr. Vic Sims and Dr. Tom Owens offered significant insight into real-world challenges in law enforcement.
As a non-traditional student, John worked full-time as a ground and flight paramedic while completing his degree requirements. He completed his SOU senior Capstone as an intern with the Oregon State Police in Central Point. He then graduated from SOU with a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a minor in psychology in 2006, earning a spot with Alpha Phi Sigma, the Criminal Justice Honor Society. With his mentor Dr. Ayers’ advice, he started taking online business and risk management courses through Boston University (BU). In 2008, John was hired by the Grants Pass Police Department (GPPD) and continued to work on his graduate degree. In 2011, Lohrfink earned his master’s in business continuity, security, and risk management through BU.
John’s career progression with the GPPD has been remarkable. He initially worked as a Patrol Officer and Field Training Officer (FTO) and was severely burned on his hands and face when rescuing a man from a fully involved structure fire in 2012. This selfless action earned John a Medal of Valor. In 2014, Lohrfink was reassigned to the investigations division as a Major Crimes Detective. John also served as a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Operator/Tactical Medic and a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) for nearly a decade. As a Detective, he also received specialized training as a child forensic interviewer, medical-legal death investigator, certified digital evidence analyst, and Homeland Security Investigations Taskforce Officer (HSI TFO).
In 2022, John was promoted to Patrol Corporal, a first-line supervisor who helps manage patrol field operations and mentors younger officers. John also serves as a department trainer, a peer support team member, and is a member of the Southern Oregon Critical Incident Response Team (SOCIRT). “My experiences at SOU and working as a Paramedic and Police Officer led me to want to be a better servant leader for the team of Officers I work alongside, as well as the Grants Pass community and Southern Oregon region,” said Lohrfink.
Today, John’s lifelong learning philosophy and giving back to society continues. He recently completed a Ph.D. in business administration with a specialization in homeland security, leadership, and policy through National University (NU). John’s dissertation research focused on active shooter incidents. John was subsequently inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) and is now Dr. John Lohrfink!
“SOU helped drive my intellectual curiosity, foster personal growth, and shape the non-traditional pathway I took to achieve success. Regardless of the path one takes while seeking higher education, the staff at SOU supports students in overcoming academic barriers and achieving personal and professional goals. The small classroom sizes, online course options, and individual attention from professors with real-world experience aided my ability to obtain my undergraduate degree. Furthermore, the relationships I built with like-minded scholars added to my overall academic experience and caused me to evaluate everyday problems from different perspectives. The beautiful Southern Oregon environment and the ability to obtain higher education in a region perfect for raising a family is an added bonus!”
Learn more: Grants Pass Police Department