Celebrating 50 Years of Service: LEMIT Offers Premier Training Opportunities for Law Enforcement

LEMIT Building

by Christopher Young

For 25 years, the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Institute of Texas, at Sam Houston State University, has provided cutting-edge training and research for Texas law enforcement officials.

In 1989, the 70th Texas Legislature created LEMIT to accomplish one common goal—to develop the administrative, analytical, and executive skills of current and future leaders law enforcement leaders to meet an ever-changing demand.

LEMIT was established in 1989.
LEMIT was established in 1989.
That year, LEMIT established its Leadership Command College (LCC), a three-module program designed to boost and sharpen the skills of law enforcement leaders. The LCC has become LEMIT’s cornerstone training program and will graduate its 72nd class this year.

The nine-week program helps up-and-coming law enforcement supervisors with training in general business administration; social, political and judicial issues; and budgeting, leadership and operational matters, according to LEMIT Executive Director Dr. Rita Watkins, an SHSU alumna who has been working with LEMIT for the past 18 years.

“LCC is LEMIT’s flagship program and more than 1,600 law enforcement practitioners have graduated from this prestigious program,” Watkins said. “The curriculum has provided them with knowledge and skills preparing them for future roles at the executive level.”

One of the most recent Leadership Command College classes.
One of the most recent Leadership Command College classes.
An optional fourth module recently was added as a refresher course for those who are already LCC alumni.

“Those who complete the Leadership Command College almost immediate notice the results of the intensive training in their daily work,” said Watkins. “Chiefs have said that LCC graduates come back changed individuals, both in the way they think and communicate with others; they are better critical thinkers using a vast array of knowledge and resources that they have learned. They are servant leaders.”

While the Leadership Command College has been extremely successful, it is only one of the many programs offered by LEMIT. Every Police chief and constable in Texas attends mandatory training when they are elevated to the job as a top cop and every two years thereafter.

LEMIT offers training in emergency management.
LEMIT offers training in emergency management.
As LEMIT has grown, so too has the number of programs it offers to accomplish its goal of giving law enforcement in our state the leadership skills that are demanded in today’s ever-changing world. With technological advances as well as new methods and practices in law enforcement, the institute has taken special care to make sure programs offered reflect the current demands of the public these officers are serving.

One of the ways it does this is by staying current in the field through forming cooperative agreements to conduct research with agencies throughout the state. These studies ultimately make the job of the leaders it trains much easier, according to Watkins.

One of the most recent studies was with the Houston Police Department, involving the processing of sexual assault kits.

Dr. Bill Wells participated in a national webinar on lesson learned from research on untested sexual assault kits. Dr. Bill Wells, Research Director at LEMIT, is working with the department to improve the investigation of sexual assault cases and to develop guidelines for other departments across the nation to reduce the backlog of sexual assault kits in police evidence rooms. The holistic approach includes victims, police, prosecutors, victim advocates and health care providers as well as victim advocates to usher the case through the process.

As a woman who has spent considerable time working in law enforcement, Watkins was eager to provide details about another of the newer courses now offered. The Leadership Initiative for Female Executives (LIFE) program was launched in 2010 as a professional development opportunity for women looking to advance their careers by moving into a leadership position.

The program was created because of the marked difference in female representation in law enforcement nationally. In 2010, women comprised 10 to 15 percent of law enforcement officers, but only 1 to 5 percent served as executives. In municipal policing in Texas, only 2 percent of women occupied the highest position—that of chief of police.

Women seeking leadership positions in law enforcement support each other through the LIFE program.
Women seeking leadership positions in law enforcement support each other through the LIFE program.
“LIFE is a program that was designed to empower females in their own way, understanding that there is a substantial level of support for what and how female executives in law enforcement lead,” Watkins said. “In spite of the fact that we have witnessed over four decades of equal rights and have made progress in recruiting females into policing careers, the representation of women in executive leadership roles in law enforcement remains alarmingly low.”

LIFE is opening up a whole world of possibilities for many women in law enforcement; a world that without the encouragement of those working at LEMIT would have been much more difficult to access.

In addition to professional support, LEMIT is also offering emotional support for officers in the field. Its newest program, the Post-Critical Incident Seminar (PCIS), was created to assist law enforcement and their spouses in alleviating the effects of any critical incident involving an officer.

In the dangerous situations officers deal with, coping with the aftermath of tragedies on the job can result in trauma that the program addresses in educating officers on trauma, patterns of resolution, and field-tested coping strategies.

Ilustration of person helping another up a mountain.The PCIS, then, promotes recovery and resilience for officers in need of assistance.

“The program allows for peer support,” Watkins has said. “They come out feeling that they are not alone, that someone in their group knows what’s going on and what they are feeling is normal.”

“The participants that have experienced PCIS recognize that they have had some challenges dealing with their specific critical incident; however, the beauty of the program is that sends a strong message—‘you are not alone’—and this is what the program is all about,” Watkins said. “It helps the officer, their family, the agency, and ultimately the community they serve.”

As the needs of officers and law enforcement agencies continue to grow and change, LEMIT will continue its dedication to establishing new trainings for officers in the future. Upcoming projects that are already in the works include creating a speaker series on hot topics for those working in law enforcement, as well as researching the use of drones.

Member of The Texas State University System