How A Police Officer Builds Trust with Generations of Students - Behind the Badge

"Officer Matt" and the Students at Boulton Elementary

Bountiful, UTAH (ABC4 UTAH) "You are one of the reasons I am the man I am today." Those are the words recently penned by 20-year-old Kyler Hamilton and sent to Corporal Matt Combs - a Bountiful police officer. 
Kyler is serving in the Navy, but his letter to Combs says he "plans to become a police officer in four years and try to give back to others - what you ( Combs ) gave to me. He also wrote  "Thank you, for everything you have done for me. "I appreciate the role model you have been for me..." 
That letter and other things we heard about Combs made us want to meet him and share his story. So, that's exactly what we are doing in this week's Behind the Badge report - "Officer Matt - Above and Beyond." 
Officer Matt and the students at Boulton Elementary School have a great relationship. Just ask 6th grader Issac Kidman. "Someone sees him in the hall they always run up to him and give him a hug or a high five."  And when you visit the school - it doesn't take long to notice that the students love and adore their school assigned officer. Reagan Lance, a 6th grader says, "He makes me feel like he is my dad - because he is there to comfort me in everyway." 
For Brooke Murdock - who is in her first year as the principal at the Bountiful school - the student and officer relationship has been amazing to watch. "They trust Officer Matt so they are more willing to listen to him and follow what he says because he shows that he loves them." And she says his ability to interact with grade schoolers has been a blessing for the 500 students and for her. "He makes them feel safe. He makes them know the law and respect him. But he gets on their level - the kids. He doesn't talk above them - he talks with them." " I came to the school with no background knowledge - and Matt has been here to guide me through some hard times and help me when I needed him."
Teresa Beauregard has been at Boulton Elementary for 12 years and has watched Officer Matt's dedication and genuine concern for the school grow during that time. "Matt has a presence in our building and that presence is felt by everybody. It is felt by students, it's felt by the community, it's felt by parents."  And it's that love for the school that has made him so unique and such a blessing for these kids - and all the students he has helped for nearly 10 years. "Since Matt came I have watched the school climate change."  
And she says that influence has also helped shape students attitudes toward police.  "I've seen an increase in trust with our students over the years - for police officers. "Their life has been impacted. They will trust officers in a completely different way because of how they were treated when they were five, ten, twelve years old." 
While we were there - the students had an Officer Matt appreciation parade. Basically a gauntlet of gratitude. Complete with vocal and energetic adoration. But the admiration doesn't stop at the school doors. A few years ago - the garage of 6th grader Meg Stoker's house caught on fire. "My dad just turned around and there was a lot of smoke from the garage and we just started freaking out." She says it was traumatic - until Officer Matt showed up.  "I was like really scared. But when I saw Officer Matt coming out of one of the cars I just automatically felt better."
And about five years ago another Boulton student was with his family when their mini van was t-boned by a speeding car. Anna Ayala says "Were just driving, talking - next thing you know everything goes white. All the air bags deploy." Ayala  says there was a lot of confusion and fear - especially for her son - who was a student at Boulton at the time - until Officer Matt arrived.  " he got out of the car, and I said 'Taylor wait', he said, 'It's okay mom. Officer Matt is here.'" "It just helped me to feel comfortable to know he recognized somebody out there that would keep him safe." All five of Ayala's children have attended Boulton elementary.  She says the bonus to the education - all five got to know Officer Matt. "He is always so gracious with our children. They know that he cares about them." 
While he remembers these incidents - the 16 year police veteran says he didn't realize how much these moments meant to the kids and their families. " Learning these stories from these kids and parents - It's pretty humbling." He says he has never tried to be a hero or do anything special - he has just always enjoyed watching over the school.  "I take pride in this school and I take pride in the work I do here. I take pride in the police work I do."  He says Principal Murdock and the others before her have made it easy for him. "I can walk into any classrooms at any given time and say hi to the kids and they will stop what they are doing so I can say hi to them." "So, coming into the school itself is fun for me. And its fun to get out and explain to the kids what I do and how I do my job and why I do my job." A job - that students, teachers and parents - are glad involves Officer Matt serving, protecting and loving Boulton elementary. "It just means a lot to us to know that he's watching over us." 
Officer Matt is actually Corporal Matt. And works for the Bountiful Police Force. He's been an officer for 16 years and served in the Coast Guard for eight years before that. 
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