SOCORRO, N.M. Sept. 29, 2009 – New Mexico Tech is expanding its law enforcement education program to include a new initiative for border area officers.

The university won a competitive grant for $994,000 from the Department of Justice to educate non-federal law enforcement officers in New Mexico and Arizona to combat drug trafficking and related violence in border areas.

New Mexico Tech's largest division, Energetic Materials Research Testing Center, has developed a reputation for excelling at field training for first responders. A new Department of Justice grant will allow the university to expand its educational programs. EMRTC file photo

Dave Williams, associate director of Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, or EMRTC, is in charge of the program. He said that most state, local and tribal police officers in the United States have not had to deal with the extreme level of threats their counterparts across the border in Mexico have faced.

“County deputies, local police officers, tribal officers and state troopers are on the front lines in the war on drug trafficking,” Williams said. “This program will be designed to equip officers with the skills, knowledge and awareness to deal with the most dangerous criminals they may encounter.”

New Mexico Tech President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez thanked the New Mexico Congressional delegation for their support of legislation which is providing special funding to combat criminal narcotics activity along the Southwest border. He also acknowledged the assistance of the Department of Public Safety. 

"Without the endorsement of Secretary Denko on our grant application in this highly competitive program, we might not have been successful,” Lopez said. “We look forward to the Department of Public Safety playing a key role in this new and challenging program.”

Through EMRTC, Tech will develop the curriculum and deliver training programs aimed to control, reduce, and prevent narcotics activities and violent crime throughout the Southwest.

Tech Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said the new education program fits in well with one of EMRTC’s specialties – delivering advanced education for professionals.

Over the past decade, EMRTC has hosted more than 10,000 first-responders for its week-long classes about response to terrorist situations. The first-responder training was expanded in 2003 when the university purchased the former mining town of Playas in southwest New Mexico and converted the village into real-life training center. Williams said the new program will call on many of the same world-renowned subject matter experts and educational program developers.

“New Mexico Tech’s primary mission is to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers,” Romero said. “In recent years, we’ve branched out into educational activities that are vital to national security. This new program fits into our educational mission and is also in our area of expertise.”

Tech will conduct a needs assessment summit and will develop the curricula related to narcotics-related victim/kidnapping negotiation and rescue tactics, high-risk drug warrant service, high-risk highway drug interdiction operations, and officer drug war survival.

On-site training will be provided to 1,350 law enforcement personnel and an additional 3,000 law enforcement personnel will be trained through a training CD and online training which will be made available under this program.

“New Mexico Tech has unique resources and facilities at the Playas Training and Research Center and the expertise required to train law enforcement officers,” Williams said. “This new program will complement Tech’s existing programs.”

New Mexico Tech operates a graduate-level professional law enforcement curriculum at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Roswell, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Tech also operates the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium First Responder program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The new program will call for hiring seven new full-time employees, 99 new part-time positions and retaining 12 existing positions that were not permanent.

The program will include performance-based training at the Playas Research Training Center and shorter on-site classes for law enforcement agencies in Arizona and New Mexico.

“Part of our strategy is to train the trainer,” Williams said. “Some departments will send a small contingent of officers, who will then take the new knowledge and skills back to the rest of their department.”

The original proposal called for $1.6 million; the project was funded for $994,000. Williams said New Mexico Tech will request more Department funds after demonstrating that the class is successful and effective.

Romero said the New Mexico Congressional delegates are working on providing the Department of Justice with additional funding in fiscal year 2010 for Southwest border counter-narcotics and law enforcement programs.

“The first phase of the project will use Arizona and New Mexico to determine what is needed,” Williams said. “We will develop the course and refine it with pilot sessions to get the program finalized. If we get supplemental funds, we can expand the program to communities in Texas and California.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech