Building Professional Law Enforcement Agencies for Three Decades


The premiere professional training institute for law enforcement leaders is celebrating 30 years of service with a new book on its history.

Thirty years ago, the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT) was created by the state legislature to provide professional development opportunities to future law enforcement leaders in the Lone Star State.

In February, the Leadership Command College – LEMIT’s premiere and inaugural program – will graduate its 80th class, adding to more than 1,800 highly qualified law enforcement executives who have participated in the program across the state, country and world. Over the years, LEMIT has grown to offer ongoing professional development and technical assistance to Police Chiefs, Constables, Command Staff and front line officers based on the latest research-based practices. It has expanded its services to other public safety partners, such as federal agents, fire officials, environmental enforcement officers and dispatchers, to name a few.

“I'm the one who attended LEMI(T), but countless colleagues and subordinates benefited as all I learned was shared and implemented,” said Lt. Victor Rivera (Ret.) from the Midland Police Department, who attended the second class. “The LCC gave me the tools to progress up in ranks and be able to successfully lead different divisions and operations. LEMIT propelled the profession into the 21st century.”

The history of LEMIT is captured in a new book, Thirty Years of Putting Theory into Practice: The History of the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT), written by Mitchel Roth, a prominent criminal justice historian at Sam Houston State University, and Rita Watkins, Executive Director of LEMIT.

The mission of LEMIT, as stated in 1988, was to “develop the analytical, managerial and executive skills of current and future law enforcement.” The courses were dedicated to focus on “future oriented subject matters that will provide successful graduates with the ability to analyze current issues and trends, the ability to identify probable future events, and the ability to define and execute appropriate management practices that will influence those events.”

In the beginning was the Graduate Management Institute, the pre-cursor to the Leadership Command College, the premiere offering of the institute. The program capitalizes on the strengths of three top colleges in the state – Texas A&M University, Texas Women’s University and Sam Houston State University -- to develop future leaders skilled in management and communication; social, political and government issues; and law enforcement administration. That program has graduated men and women who now lead law enforcement agencies across the state.

“As I am steadily approaching my 40th year in law enforcement and looking toward retirement, the education from this program will always be remembered as well as those I met and maintained a strong friendship with will never be forgotten,” said Police Chief Jim Nelson of Dumas.

The institute was named in honor of Texas Representative Bill Blackwood, a staunch supporter of law enforcement who championed the legislation to create the agency. He died of cancer at the age of 56 while still representing his constituents. The agency was molded by Larry Hoover, a longtime criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University, who helped develop some of the key programs.

In 1990, LEMIT introduced its Executive Sessions to provide management training for agency heads and command staff. It also launched Special Programs to address the needs of specific segments of law enforcement as well as innovative techniques and concepts that could be implemented quickly. In 1994, LEMIT initiated the Texas Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics Program (TELEMASP) to provide police managers with timely information on administrative polices, programs and strategies across the state.

By 1997, the Legislature mandated biennial training for the state’s 800 police chiefs and turned to LEMIT to provide the programming. In addition to introducing new chiefs to the roles and responsibilities of the top law enforcement executive, this program also provides continuing education on trends and topics in policing. The Major Cities Initiative also was introduced to address issues specific to big city chiefs, and it currently includes 28 cities with populations over 100,000.

In 1998, executive training was created for the state’s Constables, a unique position that deals with issues of law enforcement and civil process in the state. Later, the Constable’s Leadership College was added to help these professionals develop future leaders in the discipline.

Over the years, LEMIT has offered its expertise in developing future executives to other fields, including the U.S. Marshals Service and Alcoholic Beverage Commission, as well as dispatchers and environmental enforcement officers.  In 2016, it introduced its latest collaborate program, the Fire Executive Management Training, the first such programs of its kind in the country for fire officials.

Many programs have grown out of these fundamental efforts to build the best law enforcement agencies in the country through strong leaders. With few women in leadership in agencies, LEMIT launched Leadership Inventory for Female Executives (LIFE) to help prepare women for top roles in their agencies. The Post Critical Incident Seminar was adopted as a way to help law enforcement officers deal with traumatic incidents they encounter on the job. After 9/11, LEMIT introduced Incident Command and Simulation Training to prepare agencies to deal with acts of terrorism or natural disasters.

LEMIT’s influence was not limited to Texas. Over the years, it has built relationships with police all across the globe to help improve executive training opportunities or to exchange ideas on how to address an increasingly diverse populations.

“All of the LEMIT programs I have been to were top notch!” said Police Chief Dan Pennington of Freeport Police department.

Through its partnerships with Texas universities, LEMIT continues to serve as a warehouse of new ideas and research to improve practices in the field. In addition to sharing the latest research findings, LEMIT has led the state in addressing mandates from the Legislature on such issues as racial profiling, eyewitness identification, and the use of body cameras. Again and again, the Texas Legislature turns to LEMIT to solve some of its most pressing problems.

As LEMIT enters its fourth decade of service, it is finding new and innovative ways to serve officers. It introduced online classes and bought programs to remote regions of the state. It invites top scholars in the field to help put research into practice. It continues to lead the nation in providing professional development in public safety.

“Thank you to every person who has supported the institute,” said Watkins. “I look at our history and say we have had some of the best times, and I say with the future in mind the best is yet to come.”
Member of The Texas State University System