Jan M., a police lieutenant candidate with the State Police in Hessen, one of the states of the German Federation, has been attending a three-year police college. The Hessian College for Police Training and Management is a state certified development program consisting of practical and theoretical training and education. The practical component includes patrol and riot-police field experience as well as field investigations with affiliated police departments. Upon the completion of the practicum, the officers return to continue the academic component and pass exit exams.
Jan M., who asked that his last name be withheld to protect future undercover work, completed the patrolling and investigative practice and with the support of his agency sought an internship with an established premier law enforcement institution in the United States and was selected by LEMIT’s IPP to complete it in Texas. After the internship, he is returning to Hessen to take his final exams and graduate in May in the rank of Lieutenant.
The integral part of the four-week internship was the Leadership Command College (LCC), a signature training series for law enforcement leaders in the state. Jan M. attended Module III of the program that focuses on community policing, mental health issues, servant leadership, professional integrity, and ethical challenges in policing. The young officer also was engaged in discussions on political survival and officer involved shootings. He shared both academic and extracurricular activities with LCC attendees and developed friendships with members of his cohort.
In addition to management training, Jan M. benefited from visits to law enforcement agencies in the state to gain insight into the practical aspects of Texas’ criminal justice system. Several agencies throughout the state extended their welcome to the German police officer and shared their operations, equipment, administration, training, and crime statistics.
Jan M. visited county law enforcement and was hosted by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office where he had an opportunity to ride-along with a Deputy. He also was welcomed by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office where he chatted in judge’s chambers, heard court cases, and interacted with several units such as the Asset Forfeiture Unit. He visited large, medium, and small municipal and school police departments.
At the Houston Police Department, the officer toured its Houston Emergency Center (HEC) dispatch, mounted division, SWAT and Hostage Negotiation Team. At police departments in Austin and Shenandoah, Jan M. joined officers for evening patrols. The Galveston school district police and Bryan Police Departments provided additional first-hand knowledge about policing structures and administration. At Texas A&M University, Jan visited the Texas Engineering Extension Services (TEEX) with their law enforcement, fire fighting, and disaster management components.
"Even though there are differences between Germany and the United States, police work doesn’t differ that much," commented Jan M. "Crime is something we all deal with. There is also the brotherhood of how law enforcement officers are and how they support each other. We share common beliefs and values as well.”
That support was underscored by the hospitality shown to Jan M. by the local chapter of the International Police Association (IPA) during his visit.
While there are many similarities in policing between the two countries, there are several major differences. The U.S. law enforcement system is more decentralized. Thus, in addition to federal and state policing typical to Germany, the U.S. policing extends to county, municipal, and school policing agencies among others. With many different entities independent from each other, police in the U.S. may be able to implement new strategies and initiatives quicker and more effectively because decisions are made at local levels.
With large, single state agencies in Germany, procedures and processes might be slower due to higher levels of bureaucracy. However, certain processes, such as information sharing, might be more efficient than in the United States due to distinct and separate policing entities.
The German officer was particularly impressed by the integration of technology in policing in Texas and in the United States. Whereas Germany is quite advanced in technology applications, their use in policing might be more delayed than in the U.S. Specifically, use of computers in patrol vehicles has not yet been popularized in Germany. Similarly, communication systems such as interoperable radio communications for police are much more advanced in the United States.
"I am impressed with the technology and equipment used here," admitted Jan M. "It has been a great experience visiting Texas and being able to do my internship here. Even though this is my second visit to the U.S., I am especially impressed by Texas and the unique hospitality and friendliness of its people. I enjoyed learning about the Texan culture and I am grateful for the opportunity and support from LEMIT and from Sam Houston State University."
Jan M. stressed that the the opportunity to interact with current and future executive leaders in Texas law enforcement at LEMIT was very valuable.
"It is paramount when police professionals from different countries can interact and share ideas because you gain deeper perspectives from exchanging experiences and from comparing different models and systems," Jan M. said.
The German officer’s visit was the first step to developing a lasting relationship with State Police of Hessen, and future plans include mutual exchanges between Texas and Germany.
LEMIT has been involved with international police exchange programs with several countries, including Poland, Italy, and South Korea. In fact, an inaugural delegation from China is expected to visit the Institute and the University later this month. The exchange initiative is an ongoing effort for professionals in law enforcement to expand their understanding of global issues in policing, to share best practices, to elaborate on common approaches and to discuss emerging international threats and problems.