Areas of Expertise:
Cultural Diversity in Policing, Law Enforcement Issues, Police Leadership and Management, Women in Policing


Dr. Rita J. Villarreal-Watkins is the Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT). Before taking over as Executive Director in 2001, she served as the Project Manager for LEMIT's Leadership Command College. Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University, a Master of Public Administration from Texas A&M University, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Counseling from Sam Houston State University.

As the Executive Director of LEMIT, Watkins' responsibilities include the administrative supervision of the institute's programs and operations. She also oversees curriculum development, human resource management and supervision, fiscal planning, strategic planning, and international development initiatives.

Watkins worked in the criminal justice field for 17 years prior to joining the LEMIT staff. While she began her career as a juvenile probation officer, her move into policing came in 1984 with the College Station Police Department, and finally as Chief Deputy for the Brazos County Sheriff's Office. Throughout her law enforcement career, Watkins understood the value of professional development. She is instructor certified by the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education as well as an alternative dispute resolution mediator. In 1996 she graduated from the Leadership Command College and in 1995, the 182nd FBI National Academy, where she was selected section representative of the academy class.

Since LEMIT is housed on the Sam Houston State University campus, Watkins has had the opportunity to bring her professional expertise into the classroom at the university level as well. Her teaching and research has concentrated in the areas of cultural diversity issues, leadership development, interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, investigative techniques, and diverse workplaces. Rita is co-author of Forgotten Heroes, a 1999 book written about and dedicated to women police officers killed in line of duty.