Tech Lands Second $1 Million Grant For Border Security Classes

SOCORRO, N.M. September 27, 2011 – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman announced last week that New Mexico Tech has been awarded a $999,999 Department of Justice grant to help train local law enforcement agencies to tackle drug trafficking violence.

The grant comes from the fiscal year 2011 spending bill that funds the Department of Justice.

Tech will use the funds to offer classes to law enforcement personal on methods of reacting to and preventing drug-related violence in the border regions. In 2010, the Department granted Tech $1 million to launch the program, which offers classes specifically tailored to address the escalating violent activity of Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

“Drug-related criminal activity continues to be a burden on local law enforcement agencies located along the New Mexico-Mexico border,” Bingaman said in a press release. “This funding will provide important support and training to help ensure they are prepared to respond to any situation.”

The Southern Border Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Project has been focused on the overall goal of providing Southwest border state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers. Classes arm officers with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to protect themselves and to safely and effectively respond to crime and violence stemming from narcotics activity along the southern border of the United States.

 Dave Williams, director of the Southern Border Training and Technical Assistance Program, at a conference in 2010.

Dave Williams, the director of the program at Tech, said New Mexico Tech requested $1 million for a second year of training under the auspices of the Department of Justice. The new funding will allow Tech to offer training to 675 additional tribal, state, local law enforcement personnel to counter transnational criminal enterprises linked to Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations.

At Playas and Socorro, EMRTC will conduct these classes: eight sessions of “Surviving the Mexican Drug Cartels,” an eight-hour course, and five sessions of “Countering Mexican Cartel Violence in the Southwest,” a 40-hour course. Additionally, a two-day “Kidnap Incident Management Seminar” will be conducted at least twice for communities at risk for kidnapping by those associated with the cartels.

Williams said New Mexico Tech has a decade of experience training the nation’s first responders in responding to terrorist attacks. Through several Department of Homeland Security-sponsored classes, law enforcement officers from every state have attended classes and demonstrations in Socorro and Playas, N.M., in order to prepare themselves for potential terrorist attacks.

“We have proven that we have exceptional training capabilities,” Williams said. “New Mexico Tech is the nation’s leading training destination for police officers and firefighters. Now, we have expanded our offerings to include a curriculum specific to border security work. The U.S.-Mexico border area is increasingly becoming violent. Collectively, we need to be prepared for the tactics employed by the Mexican drug cartels.”

The Border Security Center initiated the program by conducting a thorough needs assessment, which included surveys of 145 officers in four states. The Center also consulted with experts who have developed successful programs in Colombia and with the London Metropolitan Police Force in England.

The Center began offering pilot program classes in January 2011 and started a four-day practical application course, “Countering Mexican Cartel Violence in the Southwest,” in March 2011 at Tech’s Playas Training and Research Center. All costs for the training, including participants’ travel, will be paid by the Bureau of Justice Assistance grant. Since January, Williams said the curricula for the courses has been adapted to the quickly-changing level of activity in the border regions.

“Our classes make officers much more conscience of the potential for extreme violence when they encounter drug cartel soldiers,” Williams said. “We arm them with the tools to recognize the indicators that they aren’t making a normal, high-risk felony stop, that the person they’re stopping may have an automatic weapon or a hand grenade and may be trained in paramilitary tactics.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech