About JV

John Vanek is a speaker, author, and consultant focusing on the collaborative response to human trafficking. John is the author of The Essential Abolitionist: What you need to know about human trafficking & modern slavery.

John works with a variety of federal and state government agencies, law enforcement agencies, non-governmental and community-based organizations, academic institutions and private sector companies. John served 25 years with the San Jose Police Department (retiring in the rank of lieutenant), holds a Master of Arts in Leadership from Saint Mary’s College of California, and is an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate School of International Policy & Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey (MIIS). John serves on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States, and in 2017 John was ranked #14 in the Top 100 Human Trafficking and Slavery Influence Leaders by Assent Compliance. From December 2017 until August 2021, John was the Human Trafficking Program Coordinator for San Mateo County (CA). Currently, John is a Project Advisor for a new coalition in Northern California.

John and his wife, Dawn, reside in Nevada enjoying views of the Sierra Nevada with their dog Bella, and horses Brogan and Miri.

John focuses on promoting 21st Century Leadership principles and skills needed for an effective collaborative response to difficult issues. John is a nationally-recognized authority on the response to human trafficking, and managed the San Jose Police Department’s Human Trafficking Task Force from 2006-2011.

John has worked with the United States Department of Justice, Office of the United States Attorneys, California’s Office of the Attorney General, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), the California District Attorneys Association, PoliceOne.com, the American Probation and Parole Association, Watch Systems, the Not For Sale Campaign, the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, and other organizations. John was part of the consultant team on the newly updated Office for Victims of Crime Human Trafficking Task Force e-Guide.

During his career John’s assignments included Special Operations, Training (Firearms & Tactics), Sexual Assault Investigations, Vice, Systems Development, and the Bomb Squad.

If you want to know more, read on…

“It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from followers.” Warren G. Bennis

In 2006, while a sergeant in the San Jose Police Department’s Vice Unit, I was given responsibility for one of the first anti-human trafficking task forces in the United States. I was tasked by the chief of police to create a multidisciplinary and collaborative response to modern slavery as part of a federally-funded grant program. At the time very few professionals were active in the anti-trafficking field and there was very little advice to be found on how to accomplish my task. I was in the unique position of breaking new ground in a new area of importance to our agency, our community, and, indeed, the world.

I began working with federal and local law enforcement agencies, a selection of non-governmental organizations and community groups, and private organizations involved in the fight against trafficking. The work was both fascinating and challenging as we faced the tasks of building a collaborative response, collective decision-making, and adopting effective leadership practices among a diverse group of professionals and agencies. The leadership traits and skills needed in the fight against slavery are the same required within any organization engaged in collaborative efforts; which means every organization! Each of us – both individually and as part of the organizations with work with – must engage with others every day if we are to achieve success. Learning how to engage effectively is key to our success.

Complexities abound in leadership and my passion in life is helping others become better leaders and facilitating collaborative engagement to enhance our organizations, our communities, and our world. I would be honored to assist you or your organization in enhancing your leadership knowledge and skills, or your understanding of modern slavery.

When I’m not facilitating leadership or the fight against slavery I’m enjoying life in the Sierra Nevada where I run trails, cross country ski, backpack, climb, and enjoy awesome views with my wife, Dawn, and our dog, and two horses.