Spotlight on UT Police: 2024 Awardee Edition

July 02, 2024 By: Sherneka Cagle

Spotlight on UT Police: 2024 Awardee Edition

UT Police consists of police officers, public safety officers, telecommunicators, and civilian employees- all of whom contribute to the success of the division. Highlighting some of the people who work hard to ensure safety on the campuses of UTHealth Houston and MD Anderson provides more information to our community.

The 12th annual UT Police Promotions and Awards Ceremony was held in May 2024. Here, we take a moment to catch up with the Police Officer of the Year as well as Leader of the Year to learn more about them.


Officer Jaylin Thornton - 2024 Police Officer of the Year

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Tell us about your career with UT Police.

I joined UT Police in 2022 after serving the City of Longview, Texas, for three years in my role as a Police Officer. During my time here, I have had the opportunity to contribute to various aspects of campus safety and law enforcement, including as an instructor in numerous law enforcement topics, a Field Training Officer, and a member of the UT System Rapid Response Team. Overall, my career with UT Police has been incredibly fulfilling, and I am committed to continuing to serve and protect to the best of my abilities.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas is my favorite holiday, as it has been my entire life. Christmas is a time when my family traditionally comes together to celebrate, as we put up Christmas trees, lights, gift exchange, and share meals. My family and I also celebrate spiritually and reflect on the past year's accomplishments and challenges.

What are your upcoming goals for this year?

This year, I plan to enhance my professional development within my career as a police officer. I plan to complete this goal by improving my skills and knowledge through training programs, gaining leadership roles, attending workshops, and completing in-progress graduate degrees and certifications relevant to law enforcement.



Captain Wayne Smith - 2024 Leader of the Year

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Tell us about your career with UT Police.

I joined UT Police at Houston in 2006. My first two supervisors were Sgt. Scott Barnwell and Lt. Kevin Gray. They really guided me and were awesome leaders on shift. I was involved with firearms training, chancellors cup matches, active shooter response, and was an original member of the UT System Rapid Response Team. We deployed to Galveston after Hurricane Ike and all over the state for special events. We were lucky enough to also travel all over the country for training. At some point, I was promoted to lieutenant and moved to night shift. Night shift was its own unique challenge, but also very rewarding.

After a couple of years on the night shift, the lieutenants rotated [assignments], and I moved to the day shift. Talk about a change! I was immersed all over MD Anderson and UTHealth Houston campuses at levels I had never experienced before.

Through the years there were many changes I was privy to with UT Police, such as the patrol rifle program, updated vehicle graphics, and I even rode-out through some crazy storms and freezes. After deploying to the Bastrop campus several times, I felt it might be the right place for me and sensed an opportunity for me to help make updates and changes to the campus. Fortunately, the lieutenant [over Bastrop] and the Chief of Police were both agreeable to a swap, and so we did!

In 2018, I was promoted to captain and took on additional responsibilities as the emergency management coordinator for all campuses we serve. This summer will be my 10th year at the Bastrop location. Honestly, with almost 19 years under my belt, some things are a blur. I am super grateful to this organization for all the opportunities it has afforded me. 


Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about a law enforcement career?

Pay attention to what your leaders say and write. If it is important enough for them to communicate with you there must be a good reason so pay attention and act on it. It will separate you from your peers. Next – everybody screws up. Take responsibility and drive on. You can either learn from it or let it drag you down. I have been upstairs (called in to respond to an Internal Affairs/Public Integrity investigation) myself and it is not the end of the world. If you can onboard constructive criticism and move past it, it will separate you from your peers.

Be patient and be ready for an opportunity. Sometimes you must wait for your chance. Be ready. While you are waiting, hone your skills. If you want to be a leader, lead now in your current role, by example. If you want to be an investigator, investigate now in your current role. If you want to be promoted, pursue your education, and take the necessary assessment each year. You never know what might happen in a year. Do not try to ‘time’ it.

Start thinking and saving now for the future. You will thank yourself later. For my veteran brothers and sisters, buy your military service credit. Build and maintain your own personal wellness and resilience by investing in family, friends, and hobbies outside of law enforcement.

What is your most proud work accomplishment?                     

The relationship we have developed with the campus overall and the morale of our team are my proudest accomplishments. When I came to Bastrop in 2014 there was still some lingering angst. My predecessor had already begun to make some improvements and I just took the ball and ran with it. We were able to rebuild trust and develop some close working relationships which have seen us through additional challenges. Today, we have great relationships with the campus and its leadership, and our team morale is rather good. I call that a win!

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