Federal law enforcement partnerships with South Texas College; first of their kind in Texas
STC announces official partnership with Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers and two U.S. Homeland Security agencies at a college credit agreement ceremony on April 24.
The college announced its official partnership with FLETC and two U.S. Homeland Security agencies at a college credit agreement ceremony on April 24.
The agreement marks the first federal partnership training agreement in the state of Texas.
The ceremony formalized Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreements with FLETC as well as the U.S. Field Operations Academy, and the U.S. Border Patrol Academy, which are all under U.S. Homeland Security. These agreements outline how much college credit South Texas College will grant federal agents for training they have already completed through federal programs.
These new federal partnerships at the college’s Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence (RCPSE) are poised to enhance the ability of future and current federal law enforcement officers to expand their horizons and their careers, according to USCBP agent Hector Escamilla, Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
The issue of training and awareness is one that Escamilla is intently familiar with; after all, he has been educating citizens about Border Patrol operations for at least two decades.
In the late 1990s, Escamilla said he organized the first Border Patrol Citizens Academy, which enabled the public to participate in a six to eight week class in an attempt to give them an up close and personal view of the border.
Escamilla said he has trained hundreds of citizens over the years, which included municipal leaders, educators, and students. Classes included accompanying Border Patrol agents on the river or in helicopters to boost awareness of life on the job, he said.
“I think what STC has established here is wonderful,” Escamilla said. “I was here for the groundbreaking ceremony with Dr. Reed, and although I know it hasn’t fully come to fruition, I believe this is an outstanding endeavor, and it’s definitely going to enhance the ability of our young people, here in the community, to expand their horizons and their careers.”
“This will be the model and the foundation for other places. South Texas College is setting the foundation so we can do this, and not only for the credit classes that they are expecting, but for those trainees I want to bring in so they can become future CBP officers and Border Patrol agents.”
Guests in attendance at the announcement included U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who provided the keynote address at the ceremony, preceded by STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed and STC Chairman of the Board of Trustees Paul R. Rodriguez, who offered opening remarks.
STC Trustees present at the ceremony included Vice Chair Rose Benavidez and member Gary Gurwitz.
Also in attendance were FLETC Director Thomas J. Walters; David Higgerson, Director of the Office of Field Operations for CBP; Isidro Lagos, Branch Chief of Field Operations Academy (USCBP); Carlos R. Ortiz, Acting Deputy Chief Patrol Agent with U.S. Border Patrol Academy (USCBP); Ana Garcia, South Texas Regional Director with the Office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn; and Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez.
“There is incredible potential with South Texas College, so I have to hand it to them; they accomplished all this in about a year, which is truly amazing,” Cuellar said.
“This will be the model and the foundation for other places,” Cuellar said. “South Texas College is setting the foundation so we can do this, and not only for the credit classes that they are expecting, but for those trainees I want to bring in so they can become future CBP officers and Border Patrol agents.”
“Something has to be done to expand educational opportunities for all the agents working for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. It has taken 15 to 20 years, but here we are today in this beautiful facility that was only possible with the support of the City of Pharr, PSJA school district, the taxpayers of Hidalgo and Starr County, the state legislature, and we are optimistic that we will now receive federal funding."
STC’s Regional Center, in particular, is working to meet the demand of careers in the fields of public safety, law enforcement, fire science, and Homeland Security. In alignment with its institutional mission to provide career and academic pathways for students of the South Texas region, STC is collaborating with federal law enforcement agencies to provide college credit for completion of federal training programs.
Graduates from the five Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) training programs will be eligible to claim between six to 17 hours of college credit at STC upon completion of two requisite courses.
Specialized FLETC training programs eligible for college credit at STC include criminal investigation, land management, and uniform police.
USCBP programs eligible for college credit include Border Patrol and Field Operations.
All course credit will count towards the Applied Associate of Science in Law Enforcement.
“Something has to be done to expand educational opportunities for all the agents working for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol,” said STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed. “It has taken 15 to 20 years, but here we are today in this beautiful facility that was only possible with the support of the City of Pharr, PSJA school district, the taxpayers of Hidalgo and Starr County, the state legislature, and we are optimistic that we will now receive federal funding.
“This truly has been a collaborative commitment to improve the preparation of all law enforcement officers: local, state, and federal,” Dr. Reed said. “We are committed to doing this collaboratively.”
STC initiated this process after visiting the FLETC training center in Glynco, Ga. in late 2017. Since then, college staff along with leaders from FLETC and USCBP have aligned the specialized training program outcomes with college coursework to allow federal agents and officers to be eligible to receive college credit.
“We know we are at a pivotal moment, and this is a small pebble in the pond creating a large ripple effect that will forever transform this area. We know that Homeland Security as a whole needs a home, and we know that they have great places to go all over our nation, but this is ground zero.”
STC pursued the partnership with FLETC, which is the name of the interagency law enforcement training body for 91 federal law enforcement agencies that provides tuition-free and low-cost training to state, local, campus and tribal law enforcement agencies through its Rural Policing Institute (RPI) and the Office of State and Local Training.
“This is our first foray into Texas and the first agreement of its kind,” said FLETC Director Walters. “It has great promise for here and now, and even greater promise for the future as we give our students who graduate from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center the opportunity to gain some credit for their professional careers, and we look forward to being able to outreach even better not just with Texas but other states in the union.”
STC officially launched Phase 1 of its $71 million master plan for the RCPSE in Sept. 2018. Phase 1 is a 19,500 square-foot investment that consists of a training center, driving skills/skid pad, and shooting and driving simulation labs. The center also includes 180 additional acres for future expansion.
The new Regional Center intends to make STC the first border community college in the nation to establish integrative training along the US/Mexico border while meeting the demand for professionals seeking careers in public safety, law enforcement, fire science, and Homeland Security.
A true collaboration, the Regional Center would not be possible without significant contributions from the city, school district and the State of Texas.
The City of Pharr contributed 59 acres of land worth $2.5 million, and the Basic Peace Office Certification Program is operated in part with the Pharr Police Academy.
PSJA ISD contributed 10 acres of land and an additional $1 million for the construction of four classrooms to serve dual enrollment students in criminal justice and other public safety programs.
“We are a very loyal and a very assertive Commission that believes very heavily in law enforcement and following the rule of law,” said Pharr Mayor Hernandez. “We also know that the fastest way to get to any one point is a straight line with partnerships. We believe that we are not going to just stand on our two feet, but rather help those who are aligned with our vision just like Dr. Shirley A. Reed and South Texas College.
“We know we are at a pivotal moment, and this is a small pebble in the pond creating a large ripple effect that will forever transform this area,” Hernandez said. “We know that Homeland Security as a whole needs a home, and we know that they have great places to go all over our nation, but this is ground zero.”
Students seeking information about programs available at the RCPSE can visit https://bt.southtexascollege.edu/law-enforcement/index.html for more information. Those looking for information about the Law Enforcement program can contact Maricruz Hinojosa, Coordinator of College Connections at 956-872-6749. Those who are looking for information on STC's Fire Science Program can contact Megan Olivares at 956-872-4200.