The Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT) is developing online training courses in environmental enforcement for state, local and tribal agencies across the country that are charged with enforcing environmental laws.
LEMIT, which is part of Sam Houston State University’s Criminal Justice Center, received a three year grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a series of online training programs on environmental enforcement, including the investigation of cases involving water pollution, solid waste and hazardous waste. The first sessions are expected to be available by the end of 2013.
“We are so pleased to have been recognized as a center of excellence by a federal agency,” said Dr. David Webb, Assistant Director of LEMIT. “We expect to offer 30-40 online classes on the whole gamut of environmental crimes.”
Environmental crimes are much more diverse, costly and under-enforced than most people realize, resulting in an estimated $20 to $40 billion in cleanup costs annually. The responsibility for these crimes falls to a relatively small group of individuals within the environmental law enforcement network.
To strengthen the ability of city, county and state government to address environment and public health threats, LEMIT will launch Project ENCRIPT, the Environmental Crimes Training Program. Using experts from the field, LEMIT will offer online beginner and intermediate level training for inspectors, case development specialists, attorneys, civil and criminal investigators, and technical experts involved in environmental enforcement. In addition to the training, these agencies will form a network to share information, develop ideas, and provide guidance to the EPA on environmental policies.
“Environmental protection policies are controlled by a lot of different agencies,” said Dr. Webb. “By putting these agencies together in a course, we can understand what the issues are and where the money is being spent.”
The program also is expected to offer face-to-face advanced classes on a regional basis on complex or cutting edge issues, such as the use of geospatial technologies in fighting environmental crimes. To develop the courses LEMIT will work closely with experts and organizations in the field as well as the Environmental Investigations Unit at the Houston Police Department, which is the largest and most experienced environmental enforcement program in the country. With more than 20 years of experience, the agency can provide insight into lessons learned and best practices in the field as well as offer teaching expertise at the local, state and federal levels.
LEMIT, the College of Criminal Justice, and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Sam Houston State University recently collaborated with a Houston Police Task Force on an environmental case that received a national award, the Chief David Cameron Award for Excellence in Environmental Crime Enforcement and Education, from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The Task Force also received the Chief of Police Commendation from Houston Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr.
LEMIT is a nationally recognized institute offering premiere professional development opportunities in policing. Since 1989, LEMIT has served law enforcement agencies in Texas, including Police, Sheriffs, Constables, School and College Police, Alcohol Beverage Control Agents, District Attorneys and Attorney General Offices, and Emergency Management Coordinators. In addition to developing training for law enforcement, LEMIT recently developed an online forensic science certification training for high school teachers in Texas.