Officer Travis Keel has worked for the Payson Police Department for two years, but has 15 years of total experience as a police officer under his belt. He and his wife and six children moved to Santaquin from Delta.
Years ago, Keel decided to become a first responder after he was laid off from his construction job and had difficulty finding employment.
He spent six years in the Marines, so becoming a police officer seemed like a natural course of action for his life. It also offered security and good benefits.
When I asked Keel to relate the most challenging thing about being a first responder, he replied without hesitation, “when you can’t fix the problem.”
When there isn’t enough information or evidence to solve a case, Keel hates it.
He wants to solve every crime he encounters, but sometimes there is nothing more he can do.
On the flipside, when he is able to help someone, it makes everything worth it. “When you solve a crime and you get people’s property back or when you solve a puzzle and get to take the bad guy to jail, that’s the rewarding part,” Keel said with conviction.
Keel’s natural optimism and enthusiasm for life recently caught the attention of a Deseret News columnist and contributor Arianne Brown.
In early June of last year, she was heading home from a Saturday morning run and was unhappy with her performance. She relates that “just as I was about to end my run early, I passed three police cars with officers in them, conversing with one another.” Keel happened to be one of those officers.
Brown related in a Deseret News article how Officer Keel said something during that run that changed her day and perhaps her life. He called out, “you’re winning at life!” as Brown passed by. The comment had a more powerful effect on her than Keel probably realized it would.
Brown related, “In four short words, he protected me from the negative thoughts that were flowing through my mind, and he served me by being kind.”
It seems a common theme among police officers that they don’t see their efforts as heroic.
After all, it’s all just part of a day’s work. But when Keel said to me, “I haven’t done anything really special,” I wanted to respond that just getting up and suiting up is special. It signifies a willingness to protect and serve, regardless of the risks involved.
Keel said it best when he stated, “I go about and do little things and I come to realize that every call I get is the most important thing in the world to that person right now, so it needs to be the most important thing in the world to me. If I put my heart and soul into something for somebody and we get the desired outcome, I get big payback from that. And it’s not special. I’m sure most cops do that.” That attitude is exactly why Keel and others like him are genuine heroes in my book. (Peterson is a Serve Daily contributor.)