Salem’s Police Officer of the Year for 2017 is a young man with a passion for helping others, who also has exhibited a level of maturity way beyond his years.
Cody Keen, a 25-year-old Richlands native, helped bring order to two very different crime scenes with his quick thinking and calculated actions in 2017. As a result, his peers at the Salem Police Department have selected him for this prestigious annual honor.
“I am very grateful that they think I am worthy of this award, but I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” says Keen. “I know for a fact, that every single one of the people I work with would have done the same things that I did.”
His selection is even more impressive when you consider that Keen has been employed at the Salem Police Department for less than two years. During his short time on the job, he has earned the respect of his co-workers in the field with his words and deeds.
“I cannot imagine another officer being more deserving of this award than Cody,” says Mike Crawley, Salem Police Chief. “Since joining the department in May of 2016, he has been a positive influence on each person he’s come in contact with in his daily work. We are proud that he represents our department in such a dignified manner.”
Last July, he and his wife were traveling near Valley View Mall when they encountered a car full of smoke sitting in the roadway. Keen was off-duty at the time, and after approaching the vehicle he realized the doors and the windows would not open and that a female driver was trapped inside.
“For whatever reason a car jack was laying on the side of the road and I was able to use that to break the glass, and convince her to climb out of the window to safety,” he says.
Roanoke City Police Officers arrived on the scene as she was exiting the car and after further investigation, they determined that the female was involved in a DUI accident earlier in the evening and they arrested her.
“We appreciate what Cody brings to the Salem Police Department on a daily basis,” says Derek Weeks, Salem Police Department Deputy Chief. “He is an officer with high standards whose moral compass is always pointed true. That was clearly evident in his willingness to provide help in a situation while he was off-duty.”
Later in the fall, on Halloween night, Keen was on-duty when he responded to an alarm call at the CVS Drug Store, located at Lakeside Plaza on Electric Road.
“I was working on a report in the parking lot when the call came in that night,” says Keen. “Normally, I check the main door first for an alarm call, but in this instance, something told me to pull around to the back first.”
When he drove to the rear of the business, he saw a man exiting the store carrying bags of merchandise in both hands. As Keen approached the suspect at his car, the man denied any involvement, placed the bags in his trunk, but then tried to flee the scene on foot. “We were able to apprehend him and keep a good amount of prescription drugs off the street,” says Keen.
Thanks in part to his actions, Salem Police charged the suspect with four different counts, including felony burglary and felony grand larceny of prescription drugs.
“You really need to trust your training and be ready to make those quick decisions,” says Keen. “My mom worked 12 years for the Department of Corrections and my stepdad is a Major in the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, but I really think I am in law enforcement because I have always had a passion for helping other people. I truly believe God has called me to work with people in this capacity.”
Keen and his wife, who is a nurse at LewisGale Medical Center, both graduated from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. He earned his degree in Criminal Justice and Intercultural Studies and he is a credentialed minister through the Assemblies of God.
“My immediate goal is to one day become a detective and work with sex crimes and crimes against persons,” he says. “I think that plays back into my passion for helping human trafficking victims and victims of these types of crimes. I believe we’re all here to help each other and if we’re not doing that, then we’re really hurting each other.”
The Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce will formally honor Keen at its annual dinner and gala on March 23 at the Hotel Roanoke.
-Submitted by Mike Stevens, City of Salem Communications Director