Intern Enhances Security in Central America

Intern Caleb Lenard poses with a submarine moving through the Panama Canal.
Intern Caleb Lenard poses with a submarine moving through the Panama Canal.

Graduate Student Caleb Lenard was part of the international effort to strengthen citizen security during his internship with the Department of State in Panama.

“It was my college education in just four months,” said Lenard, a Master of Security Studies student at Sam Houston State University. “I got to see all aspects of the criminal justice system. It was great. I learned a lot, even though I wasn’t on the ground running operations.”

Lenard served with the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in Panama and helped coordinate and monitor U.S. programs to fight international drug and criminal activities in Central America. The training initiatives in law enforcement, courts, corrections and counterterrorism were designed to increase safety for citizens, disrupt the flow of contraband between countries, and enhance security within the region. Lenard wrote reports highlighting achievements in each program, which were distributed to federal agencies and embassies in the region and in Washington, D.C.

Intern Caleb Lenard in front of the U.S. Embassy in Panama.
Lenard worked for the Department of State in Panama.
“The sky is the limit with international internships,” said Dr. Jim Dozier, Internship Coordinator for the College of Criminal Justice. “The positions are competitive, but our Sam Houston State Criminal Justice students have secured many top notch spots. If you can dream it and are qualified, the internship office will work hard to help you achieve your goal."

This is just one of the international internship opportunities available from the College of Criminal Justice, which includes such agencies as Interpol, Scotland Yard, The Canadian Royal Mounted Police, the boating and fisheries agency in Queensland, and a private investigation agency in Canada. The College also offers Study Abroad programs in Scotland/England, Italy, Germany, and China.

Panama is a multi-party constitutional democracy, and the U.S. is supporting training efforts to improve the criminal justice system in the country. Among the issues targeted are harsh prison conditions, judicial ineffectiveness, prolonged pretrial detention, violence against women and children, human trafficking, and conflicts involving indigenous people.

Panamaian Police patrol the Darien Region.
Panamaian Police patrol the Darien Region.
During his internship, Lenard worked with many federal agencies and private organizations that offered training to Panama officials. He also visited programs and witnessed results firsthand.

“I got to work with many agencies that affected security in Central America,” Lenard said. “We were there to help them achieve their strategic mission in training and operations. Ensuring that Panama is stable and can meet its own security needs is important to the whole world due to the Panama Canal.”

For law enforcement, that mission included enhanced training for national, border and maritime police. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents were embedded with Panama officers to provide the same training offered to agents in the U.S. to combat drug trafficking and terrorism. They also introduced the community policing model in the country to build better relationships between local officers and neighborhoods and introduce crime prevention strategies.

A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter was refurbished as a patrol boat in Panama.
A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter was refurbished as a patrol boat in Panama.
“I saw videos of the work that was done,” said Lenard. “The Panama officers are just as able as the agents working here.”

Customs and Border Protection agents worked with Panama border guards on how to better protect the Darien region, which was seized from control of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), which used the area as a route for drug and human smuggling from other countries to the United States.
In maritime policing, INL training efforts paid off when Panama officers rehabilitated an old Coast Guard ship for use in patrols. “They did it all themselves,” said Lenard.

"In the court system, INL contracted experts from the American Bar Association to help the Panamanians to implement better practices in the courts for judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement officers. The training included skills like police evidence collection, arrest procedures, mediation and sentencing options.

Police and court officials are trained in crime scene investigations.
Police and court officials are trained in crime scene investigations.
“This was the area that I think was most beneficial,” Lenard said. “We were teaching them how to run a case in the more efficient accusatory judicial system. In the old inquisitorial system, they were keeping people sitting in jail for years waiting for trial.”

The U.S. team offered many new options to court officials for both the adult and juvenile systems that provide alternatives to overcrowded jails and prisons in the country. These include probation and parole as well as juvenile rehabilitation through restorative justice efforts in their communities. INL trained police to introduce the DARE and GREAT programs in schools to help reduce drug crimes and gang participation.

The INL also worked jointly with United Nations officials to offer corrections alternatives. Among the programs they introduced were trainings for women in prison for future jobs as call takers, seamstresses and community development leaders. To help indigenous people who did not speak Spanish or English, pamphlets were developed in native indigenous languages that outline their rights.

Lenard hopes to use the skills he learned in Panama in a career with the Diplomatic Security Service, where he would travel the world to protect U.S. embassies and personnel. He plans on doing a second internship with the agency before graduating with a Master’s degree in Security Studies in May.

Lenard got hooked on his career choice while attending Texas A & M. In addition to getting his undergraduate degree there, he also attained a certificate in International Relations from the Bush School of Government and Public Service. After graduation, he decided to obtain a Master’s degree in Security Studies at Sam Houston State University to round out his academic pursuits.

Aerial photo of Panama City.
Panama City
To prepare for the international arena, he also participated in a Study Abroad program as an undergraduate as well as took trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to sharpen his language skills.

Through his internship, Lenard realized the wide array of opportunities that are available in international law enforcement. He worked with several consultants, such as representatives from the Coast Guard and Boston Police Department, who are involved in training opportunities abroad.

With this experience under his belt, Lenard was invited to help select his successor in the internship. He offered advice for students looking for the job.

“I looked at over 200 applications,” Lenard said. “For people applying for jobs, don’t say how the job will benefit you in the statement of interest, but rather how you will benefit the agency.”

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