- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

ROSWELL, N.M. — As twilight descends on this placid city in New Mexico's high-plains district, Roswell police Officer Jerry Dosher is fiddling with his laptop computer.

His seatmate, Ignatius Mbinga, an assistant police commissioner from Tanzania, pronounces the sophisticated equipment "very fine, very fine."

"We're way behind schedule," he says of police in his own country, where officers drive Hyundais and most patrol on foot.

The two men compare road conditions and crime statistics. Roswell police have their hands full of gangs from south of the border. Tanzanian officers deal with refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo. Officer Dosher, 23, has been a cop for four years. Commissioner Mbinga, 56, has been in law enforcement for 35 years.

The elder is surprised that an American police officer drives alone. Tanzania has three policemen to a car. Street crime is so bad, he says, that if a lone officer leaves his car even for a few minutes, "a gang would come by and steal everything."

This is no casual police swap; it is a typical night for students at the International Law Enforcement Academy. Founded a year ago, the academy's Roswell branch trains police managers in emerging democracies.

The program has boomed since September 11, with police around the world undertaking an unprecedented networking effort to catch terrorists who respect no boundaries. Roswell joins three other branch schools in Thailand, Botswana and Hungary funded by the U.S. State Department.

Two Republican lawmakers from New Mexico, Sen. Pete V. Domenici and Rep. Joe Skeen, started negotiations in 1999 for a university-based program to export democracy by educating police intelligentsia.

The Roswell branch is partnered with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Eastern New Mexico University, Sam Houston University in Texas and the San Diego-based Science Applications and International Corp., which provides staff.

So far, 300 police officers from 28 countries have received training in crime typology, accurate record maintenance, investigative techniques and management of citizen complaints. A session with officers from Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania just ended. Russian and Uzbek police will begin classes Monday.

Cynthia Lum, a researcher at the University of Maryland, teaches officers how to recognize geographic crime patterns and apply them in global hot spots. Many of the police departments represented in Roswell, she said, are new, as their homelands until recently have been under military rule.

"We instructors can talk to people who are at the inception of learning how to police in a democratic society," she says. "These police commanders are rethinking social control and what is the legitimacy of police in society."

However, many police departments do not have access to the Internet nor computers to conduct intelligence analyses. Not all police in developing countries can read, much less write adequate reports of their observations for court proceedings.

One problem that all officers have in common is drug dealers; New Mexico is a huge drug transit point.

The third week consists of sessions on human rights, with pop psychologist Scott Peck's "A World Waiting to be Reborn: Civility Rediscovered" as suggested reading. In one module, police are asked to distinguish between "the obligation of police to subdue, arrest and detain lawbreakers and the right of citizens to be free from torture, cruel and degrading treatment and inhumane treatment."

The school is in a two-story, brick building on the grounds of the former Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, population 50,000. Instructors discuss disagreements within American society, such as civil liberties groups' opposition to the treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

"Issues in the United States are transparent," says William Kuehl, general manager of the academy. "Everyone knows about our problems because we talk about them and we get them fixed. We don't hide the bad stuff because people will suspect you're hiding more than you already are."

Nevertheless, he adds, "Some say only a child or a fool would offer up this information. The Chinese, in their evaluations, were surprised with how frank we were about problems in the United States."

The idea of open disagreement, civil disobedience and free debate is new to many of the visitors, he says. So is the idea that the people give the government its police powers. Civility in policing originated with Sir Robert Peel from which British "bobbies" got their name who founded the London Metropolitan Police in 1829.

Visiting officers also are given tours in southeastern New Mexico, including the Chaves County Detention Center, visits to the local courthouse, symphony, art gallery and theater, and meals with American families.

School officials say the academy is needed because the volume of international trade has doubled since 1994 and is expected to double again by 2005. Criminals are taking advantage of increasingly open economies to establish front organizations for smuggling, money laundering, fraud and intellectual piracy.

Police in many countries cannot combat this easily because of corruption in their own government or a lack of funds. The State Department sponsors the Roswell academy at $5 million a year as one way to maintain global security and stability.

"Organized crime is global," says Norma Reyes, a State Department official overseeing the academy, "and now everything reaches the United States. It's to our best interest to have good relationships with international law-enforcement agencies."

Tanzanian and Botswanan officers at the most recent school noted the sheer numbers of American police at state, county and local levels. Tanzania has only a national police force, with commissioners overseeing various cities and regions.

Commissioner Mbinga noted roads are far more dangerous in Tanzania and few people there are allowed to possess handguns. When Officer Dosher pulled over a man for not wearing his seat belt, the Tanzanian was surprised the man did not pay the $45 fine on the spot. In his country, most drivers pay the officer directly.

While American officers maintain computer chitchats on locations for the best pizza that night, Tanzanian officers, he said, can never stop either for bathroom or food breaks.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide