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By Thomas Guengerich

SOCORRO, N.M., July 15, 2008 – A cadre of New Mexico Tech officials circled the globe in June to build relations with three partner academies in Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

Botswana

Tech Vice President of Research and Economic Development Van Romero led the mission. He is also the principal investigator for the International Law Enforcement Academy in Roswell.

Right: The New Mexico Tech team in front of the headquarters building at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone, Botswana.

“Our goal was to find out how we can mutually share the ILEA mission,” Romero said. “We want to tailor our curriculum in Roswell for the evolving needs of law enforcement officers around the globe.”

Tech is a state-supported university in Socorro that is best known for its programs in science, engineering and research. However, over the past 30 years, the university has developed a variety of strong programs in homeland security, anti-terrorism training and law enforcement.

Since 2001, Tech has operated the International Law Enforcement Academy, or ILEA, in Roswell, through a contract with the U.S. Department of State. The Roswell school serves as a graduate program for law enforcement officials who have completed advanced training. Five representatives of Tech and ILEA spent three days meeting with State Department officials and host country leaders at each of the academies in Botswana, Hungary and Thailand.

Botswana

Left: The campus of the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone is located in a hilly area outside of the capital of Botswana.

Josh Carrillo, a former Socorroan who is now the site manager of ILEA-Roswell, said he expects to have more communication with his counterparts in Botswana, Hungary and Thailand.

“This will foster more of a sense of unity,” Carrillo said. “I will be able to have a better one-on-one rapport with the ILEA personnel.”

The series of meetings was also essential for introducing the foreign ILEA leaders to New Mexico Tech.

“It was important for us to educate them about New Mexico Tech,” Romero said. “We have been an unknown quantity – even to the State Department people in these countries.”

Romero said the general perception had been that New Mexico Tech is a small school and that the $3.25 million budget for ILEA-Roswell represented the university’s biggest contract.

Dr. Dan Walsh, ILEA director for Tech, said, “They thought this was the biggest watermelon on our pile.”

“They were amazed when we told them we have an annual budget of $50 million for homeland security work and an overall research portfolio of $250 million,” Romero said. “The trip was very productive for a variety of reasons, but I think it was a real eye-opener for our partners to really see that we are committed to this partnership and that we know what we’re doing.”

Hungary

Right: Members of the New Mexico Tech team are shown on the grounds of the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest with Lt. Col. Hajni Gosi, head of the Hungarian Secretariat at the academy. Shown are (from left) Josh Carrillo, ILEA-Roswell site manager; Dan Walsh, ILEA-Roswell program manager; Lt. Col. Gosi; Van Romero, New Mexico Tech vice president for research and economic development; and Jack Swickard, ILEA-Roswell external affairs.

The ILEA director in Botswana is interested in adding curriculum in post-blast analysis. Romero said the State Department referred the Botswana leaders to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

“That is one of our areas of expertise,” Romero said. “We developed the techniques used by the ATF. It’s obvious that we need to do a better job of educating our partners and the State Department about our capabilities.”

As a result of the recent meetings, the Botswana police commander is planning a trip to Roswell and Socorro in November. Romero and Walsh said they hope to establish regular visits between the leaders of the four academies.

Walsh said Tech and the three academies will build on this relationship. Walsh and Romero hope future visits will continue to improve the working relationships and the effectiveness of ILEA training.

The Roswell academy educates about 400 students each year. Students from all over the world spend four weeks in school, learning from guest speakers and experts in law enforcement.

In addition to classroom work, students visit the city police station and county sheriff’s office in Roswell, as well as social and cultural activities in the area. Students also get weekend trips around New Mexico.

Much of ILEA training at all four academies focuses on international cooperation and communication, Walsh said, with specific emphasis on drug trafficking and human trafficking. African police are especially interested in the trafficking of illegal animal parts, some of which are more expensive than heroin.

Walsh said ILEA training in Roswell has helped officers in numerous countries acquire the skills and confidence to solve complex international crimes and conspiracies.

“ILEA training is more than just a red badge of courage,” he said. “We met senior law enforcement officials in each host country who went through the Roswell academy four or five years ago. They have all been successfully promoted. It speaks quite well of ILEA that its graduates are recognized for their work and promoted.”

Carrillo said ILEA training in Roswell is designed to help law officers become better leaders.

“We take a university approach to law enforcement,” he said. “Our program is theoretical.”

In general, the Tech contingent heard positive feedback about the Roswell experience. ILEA-Roswell graduates appreciate the accommodations, food, class structure and instruction.

Romero said the Tech contingent heard a resounding chorus of suggestions to increase training opportunities in fighting cyber crime. The curriculum at ILEA continually changes, Walsh said, as the criminal world changes.

“Cyber-threats are a big concern in emerging countries,” he said. “Advancing technologies present a whole new area of threats. We’re taking these suggestions to heart.”

Walsh said the Tech contingent found common ground with their counterparts in each country, which helped build confidence and develop trust.

“Botswana is having border issues with refugees from Zimbabwe and other neighboring countries,” Walsh said. “The police commander asked us, ‘Can you help us with border issues?’ I responded with a question: ‘Can you help us with our border issues?’ ”

– NMT –