By Jack Swickard
ROSWELL, N.M., Sept. 24, 2008 — The International Law Enforcement Academy in Roswell, a division of New Mexico Tech, began its seventh year of operation this month as the United States marked the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The attacks by foreign terrorists on the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, coming just a week after the first pilot class at ILEA-Roswell began meeting, illustrated clearly — and terribly — the importance of international police cooperation to the security of the United States and the entire world.
Fostering such cooperation and building law-enforcement networks among participating countries and the United States is a key purpose of the State Department’s ILEA program.
Frank Taylor, general manager of ILEA-Roswell and former New Mexico State Police chief, said he considers the networks established between officers of different countries one of the most important results of ILEA.
“During the time I’ve been here, this very impressive program has helped in networking among various countries that have attended,” he said. The networking has resulted in good sharing of information, “something that has worked quite well between the U.S. and attending countries.
“Getting to know these people has helped immensely in establishing relationships on a personal, as well as a professional level,” he added.
The State Department began the ILEA program in 1995 after a speech President Bill Clinton delivered to the United Nations General Assembly on Oct. 22, 1995, during the U.N. 50th anniversary. In the speech, Clinton called for a network of international law enforcement academies throughout the world to combat international drug trafficking, terrorism and other transnational crimes through strengthened international cooperation.
The program now has six sites around the world — four regional academies, at Budapest, Hungary; Bangkok, Thailand; Gaborone, Botswana; and San Salvador, El Salvador; a regional training center for Latin America at Lima, Peru; and the center for advanced training at Roswell.
ILEA-Roswell began classes in the deBremmond National Guard facility at the Roswell Industrial Air Center in September 2001. The Roswell academy offers an advanced management course for mid- and upper-level law-enforcement personnel, focusing on the academic aspects of law enforcement rather than its practical aspects. Classes typically include 35 to 50 participants selected from among graduates of regional ILEAs. To date, the Roswell academy has hosted 2,759 delegates from 85 countries, speaking 27 languages.
The current class, which includes 52 delegates from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam, is the 71st at ILEA-Roswell.
In January 2005, ground was broken for the ILEA building at RIAC. The building was dedicated Feb. 22, 2006, and provides up-to-date classroom facilities that include sophisticated equipment allowing for simultaneous translations of lectures into multiple languages at once. The State Department’s Office of Language Services provides simultaneous interpreters, who translate lectures 2 to 2.5 seconds behind the instructors.
New Mexico Tech operates ILEA-Roswell under a cooperative agreement with the State Department. Tech carries out ILEA operations through a consortium that includes Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, Sam Houston State University and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).
Dr. Van Romero, vice president for research and economic development at New Mexico Tech, oversees the ILEA-Roswell program as project director.
Romero said he believes the ILEA-Roswell program has been beneficial for the nation, as well as for the local community.
“We feel the ILEA program helps strengthen U.S. relationships with developing countries in areas vital to national security,” he said. “The more countries that get involved, the better the program.”
Dr. Dan Walsh is the New Mexico Tech program director for ILEA-Roswell and Josh Carrillo serves as program manager.
Sam Houston State provides 50 to 60 percent of instructors for ILEA-Roswell, under the coordination of Dr. Dick Ward, who still retains some involvement with Sam Houston State, although he is now dean of criminal justice at the University of Connecticut. The remainder of instructional staff is coordinated through SAIC.
The wisdom of establishing the advanced ILEA course in Roswell has been demonstrated over and over again.
In Roswell, senior law enforcement officials from emerging democracies discover what typical Americans are really like, away from the centers of political and economic power of Washington and major metropolitan areas. Many have remarked on the friendliness and helpfulness of local residents, as well as ILEA staff.
Roswell residents open their homes for get-togethers with ILEA delegates, who interact with local residents daily. It is common to see the delegates around the community after class.
Taylor terms the involvement of the Roswell community “one of the biggest successes of this program.”
“Their support has really helped, not only with the program, but in establishing relationships with people,” he said. “Their support has been excellent.”
In a typical comment, Felix Villanueva Mejia, deputy commissioner of the National Police of Honduras, said the warmth of ILEA staff and local residents “made us feel as if we were in our own homes.”
Oscar Hernandez, commissioner of the National Police of Nicaragua, was impressed by “the respect that has been shown to us, the friendship and kindness of the people.”
The treatment they receive in Roswell has changed negative perceptions of Americans some delegates held before coming to ILEA. What they find in Roswell is that Americans don’t fit the stereotypes fostered by Hollywood and by Cold War propaganda; they are warm, friendly and helpful and in many ways are like the people of their own countries.
In the four weeks they are in Roswell, delegates develop such strong bonds with local residents, as well as with ILEA staff and other delegates, that many leave with tears in their eyes, and many develop friendships that last long after the course is over.
Delegates have expressed their appreciation for their hosts from the very first class. After the 9/11 attacks, members of the first ILEA pilot class donated blood for the victims of the attacks.
On Nov. 4, 2002, Roswell Police Officer Cruz Zavala, who had survived being shot five times by a criminal suspect, was officially given a certificate by the Hungarian delegation recognizing him as an honorary Hungarian police sergeant.
People in Roswell also have provided support and encouragement to delegates in difficult times. After a tsunami devastated the Indian Ocean, including the coast of Thailand, then-Mayor Bill Owen designated the Dec. 30, 2004, as Royal Thai Police Recognition Day as a way of showing the community’s support for delegates from Thailand as their country dealt with the tsunami’s destruction.
Roswell residents also benefit through expanded horizons as they interact with people from a variety of cultures around the world.
They benefit in other ways, too, sometimes unexpectedly. A young woman who lived in Roswell became lost while vacationing in southern Africa. She had left her passport at the hostel where she was staying.
As she was returning to the hostel on board a bus, she failed to get off at her stop and spent two hours on the bus. The bus driver dropped her off at a police station, where she discovered several officers who had attended ILEA-Roswell. One of the policemen, accompanied by a woman employee, drove the Roswell woman back to the hostel.
ILEA-Roswell delegates have had a wide variety of backgrounds and have included the chief of environmental law enforcement for Brazil, an art theft investigator from Poland, the head of the Colombia National Police Human Rights Office and a member of the Seychelles Supreme Court.