STEPHENVILLE (September 2, 2016)- Tarleton police chief Matt Welch is a familiar face for Tarleton students. Welch began as the police chief in Oct. 2014 and serves the campus as one of Stephenville’s many heroes.
“It’s been a good transition [to Tarleton State University],” Welch said. “I just feel blessed.”
Although Welch has been a police officer since 1983, he originally did not plan on joining the force. He wanted to be a forest ranger.
“I started out at Stephen F. Austin as a forestry major and realized there are very, very few jobs in forestry,” Welch said. “So, I changed to criminal justice. I went to Texas Southmost College in Brownsville near my hometown and got my associate’s degree.”
Welch began his first job as an officer working for a rural sheriff’s department in Durango, Colorado. Welch’s parents had recently moved there to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in Colorado, and Welch “followed the food.”
“But, in most resort towns the cost of living is very high, and the wages are low,” Welch said.
In 1986, Welch transferred to the Fort Worth PD. His best friend had begun working there and Welch was able to go on a ride along.
“I thought, ‘Wow this is the big city’,” Welch said. “It’s fun. It’s hopping.”
Welch worked there for the next 28 years as a police officer. He earned his bachelor’s degree in General Studies with an emphasis in Criminal Justice at Texas Christian University and his master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Tarleton State University. He retired as head over the internal affairs department at FWPD, which dealt with the criminal conduct of the officers.
“I was at the end of my career, so to speak, at Fort Worth PD,” Welch said. “So, I’d thought about applying for the chief of police and I heard about this job being open. Since I was familiar with Tarleton, I looked into it. It just looked like a good fit. I grew up in a small, rural town in Texas. It had a lot of similarities, and I was ready to leave the concrete jungle of the Metroplex.”
Today, Welch works as the police chief and lives with his wife, Cindy and son Caleb Welch. His two older children, Adam and Sarah Welch, attend Abilene Christian University.
“I don’t say I’m married- I say I’m happily married,” Welch said of his home life.
As police chief, Welch manages the police department and current parking lots.
“I don’t build the parking lots,” Welch said of his role over the lots. “I don’t place where they go.”
In the police aspect of his job, Welch serves the nearly 10,000 students on campus as well as faculty, staff and visitors. He is also in charge of reporting crime, which he is required to do for the FBI and Department of Education under the Clery Act.
“They speak in two different languages,” Welch said of the reporting side of his job. “Say it’s theft. The Texas Statute calls it theft. The FBI may call it something else, and Clery may call it yet something else. How you count the numbers is different, too. If you break into a residence hall and you break into five rooms in a row, that’s one continuing episode. But, by Clery it’s five different episodes. It’s the hardest thing to keep track of. You try your best to keep it straight.”
But, for Welch, knowing he can make a difference in another’s life makes it all worth it. Welch recalled making a theft report for an elderly man in Durango that always stuck with him.
“He asked me to come in and drink a cup of coffee while we took the report,” Welch said. ” So we went and talked and while we were talking I commented on how nice his garden was. About two weeks later he called and asked for me to come back by the house. I thought he wanted me to come back because he found something else missing. When I got back he had a great big tray of like six quarts of fresh raspberries from his gardens. He goes, “I wanted to say thanks for listening to an old man.” I never forgot that because what may seem like a routine, insignificant call to you impacts the other person.”
Welch loves being a police officer because he considers himself “a people person.” He also loves that every day is different and he never knows what a day will hold.
“Nowadays I have meetings and things that are scheduled,” Welch said. “You kind of know what is going to happen. But there’s always an element of surprise that kind of throws a monkey wrench in there that makes it exciting and fun.”