Detective Michael Riojas
I always thought I would go to work for DPS as a state trooper. So yes, I always knew I would be a police officer somewhere. I served as an electrician in the Navy. I have worked for UTPD since 1990. I started out as a guard officer writing parking tickets. Five years later I went to and graduated from the System Police Academy. I worked patrol for 6½ years. In 2001 I was assigned to the Criminal Investigations Unit as a detective. The reason I choose law enforcement was because law enforcement has been a career that I saw as a way of helping others when they are in need, and it was a way to give back to the area in which you live.
Lt. Darrell Birdett
Becoming a police officer was not my childhood dream. I got into police work because I was on scholastic dismissal from college. I decided I needed to find a better job and career than my retail sales job. I thought that being a police officer would be interesting, and if I found out it wasn’t the career for me, I could always go back to school and finish my degree. It didn’t take long to discover that I had found a job I truly enjoyed. I have worked virtually every assignment in the department over the years. After several years of being an officer and getting promotions, I decided that I needed to finish my degree. I started taking some classes through the UT System Online Consortium. In December 2014, I received a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from The University of Texas at Brownsville. I celebrated my 25 anniversary at UTPD in 2016.
Lt. Wayne Coffey
I came to UT Police after playing professional football in the National Football League and the Arena Football League. My father-in-law, Ira Guyton, a guard, recruited me to work at UT. I have been with UTPD for 16 years.
My job at UT gives me the opportunity to take my daughter Kennedy to school every morning, head over to the golf course once a week to play golf with some retired police officers, or take Tru, my Belgian Malinois, for a run. I am married to Natalie Coffey, and my son Spencer Coffey is a Ph.D. student at UC Santa Cruz. My favorite part of the job is the work I get to do as a certified drug recognition expert (DRE). This work includes a drug and alcohol workshop training for the cadets at the UT Police Academy.
UTPD provides an excellent benefits package and numerous training opportunities. I have been certified for bike patrol, Special Response Team, community policing, and as a first responder.
Sgt. Victoria Valenta
Growing up, I could always be found tucked away somewhere reading the latest mystery/crime novel or watching a true crime show on TV. Deep down, I always knew that someday I would do something in the law enforcement field. I attended St. Edward’s University, where I majored in criminal justice. One of the classes that I took required me to shadow a deputy at the Travis County Jail, attend a court hearing and go on a ride with a police officer. After spending half of a night riding with the police officer and seeing the passion that he had for serving his community, I decided that I also wanted to serve as a law enforcement officer. I began my career at UTPD in 2007. I spent seven years working the night shift as a patrol officer before I was promoted to sergeant in 2014. When I was promoted, I took on the role of sergeant over the Crime Prevention Unit, Accreditation, and Special Projects. In 2016, I became the sergeant in charge of training. In addition to serving my department through my role as the training sergeant, I also serve the UT community by teaching RAD self-defense classes to women.