Rich Emberlin

Written by: 
Megan Beck
Photography by: 
Gary Payne

etective Rich Emberlin (’86), a military kid with ties spread around the country and the world, has great memories of UNT.

Rich Emerlin in police gear

Here, he studied business, met his first girlfriend, overindulged during dime beer night at the Flying Tomato and discovered Brave Combo and Phyllis George.

A year after graduation, he joined the Dallas Police Department, working as a patrol officer, in field training and in undercover narcotics. He was on the SWAT team for more than 15 years, transferring last fall to work in criminal intelligence with the police department’s dignitary protection unit.

“I had wanted to serve in the Air Force,” says Emberlin, whose less-than-perfect vision after he took a BB to the eye kept him from flight training. “So when my cousin with the Houston PD suggested police work, I decided to serve that way.”

Emberlin has arrested barricaded subjects, executed hazardous warrants, rescued hostages and protected heads of state, with typical SWAT calls requiring a large amount of protective gear and specialized training and weapons.

Throughout his career, he has received two lifesaving awards for rescuing people from burning buildings. In his "spare time," he teaches instructor-level classes in firearms and other munitions around the country.

From 2005 to 2007, television network A&E filmed Dallas SWAT, a reality TV series featuring the lives of members on and off the clock — with the crew even sleeping in their homes to garner better footage. The show was an instant hit.

“The first night it aired, during the first commercial, I got calls nonstop,” says Emberlin, who also received Denton and Mean Green pride letters after he sported a UNT shirt in one of the episodes.

He has mixed feelings about how the show portrayed the work.

“The planning and execution of warrants was fairly accurate. People have no idea we spend an average of two days planning for a 15-second warrant,” he says. “But I probably wouldn’t put my personal life out there again.”

Emberlin jokes that his UNT job as a resident assistant at West Hall helped prepare him for police work. He was in charge of students like Craig Miller (’88) and George Dunham (’88), now popular sports radio hosts, with Dunham also calling games for the Mean Green.

“Those guys were always loud. I tell them they are one of the reasons I went into law enforcement,” Emberlin laughs.

He stays involved around campus as a member of the UNT Alumni Association board, solidifying his roots here.

“This was the first time I came to a place I knew I wasn’t going to have to move away from,” he says. “When I was asked to join the board, it was like they want a part of me to belong here, too.”

He encouraged his brother, Joe Emberlin (’89), and his cousin, Stayton Pettyjohn (’87, ’87 M.S.), to study here. And his 13-year-old daughter, Elise, wants to attend when she is older.

A Dallas resident, Emberlin hasn’t ventured too far from Denton, and that’s how he likes it.

“North Texas has been my home since 1981. It’s the one place that’s constant.”