Officer Keith P. Thompson
Omaha (NE) Police Department
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer Keith P. Thompson, of the Omaha (NE) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for March 2003. Officer Thompson is currently assigned to the Informational Service's Unit.
Like many who choose a career in law enforcement, Keith Thompson received his initial law enforcement training as a military police officer in the United States Army. In 1991 he joined the Omaha Police Department and two years later married the girl of his dreams. A year later, happily married with a career he loved, the birth of their first son confirmed for him that he had been blessed. Life was good for this family living in America's heartland, but as every police officer knows, the trajectory of an officer's life can be forever altered in the blink of an eye.
On August 28, 1996 Officer Thompson and his partner, Officer Mark Negrete, were patrolling in downtown Omaha when they received word that another cruiser was in pursuit of a stolen Jeep Cherokee. Dispatch confirmed that Officers Thompson and Negrete were paralleling the pursuing area, but were not instructed to join the chase. Without any warning, the Jeep, traveling at an incredible speed, raced out of an alley, crashing broadside into the cruiser, just behind the driver's door. Miraculously, both officers survived the impact; Officer Negrete receiving only minor injuries. The focus was now on his partner as he watched firefighters struggle for more than an hour to extricate Officer Thompson from the mangled metal cage.
Suffering extensive brain injuries, for 20 days Thompson lay in a coma; many fearing the worst. When he awoke, however, surgery was needed to repair his damaged aorta and against all odds, he survived the surgery. Tragically, loss of blood to his spine during the operation left him paralyzed.
Once his medical condition stabilized, Officer Thompson was admitted to a rehabilitation center. Days, weeks and months of grueling therapy followed. In addition to his paralysis, he battled memory loss and difficulties with his speech. Dr. T.J. Holmes, who has treated Officer Thompson since the accident, states, "One of the highlights of my career as a physician has been my relationship with Keith Thompson. He is one of the most courageous individuals I have ever met." Once strong enough, in order to rejuvenate his memory and fine motor skills, Officer Thompson enrolled in Goodwill's Head Injury Rehabilitation and Employment (HIRE) program, where he mastered computer keyboarding.
Only those who truly knew Keith Thompson ever expected him to return to the department; they knew he would simply not allow his injuries to end his career. On September 25, 1997; Ann Thompson pulled the family vehicle in front of Omaha's Central Police Headquarters; just 13 months after the accident, Officer Thompson was reporting for duty. Since then Thompson has been a valuable member of the department's Information Service Unit's Telephone Response Squad, providing the first line of non-emergency communication with the community.
Perhaps the greatest contribution Thompson has made to his colleagues and the citizens of Omaha has been his demonstration of unwavering inner strength and determination to serve his community. Sergeant Jim Deignan marveled at how, "Keith returned to work with an unbroken spirit and I could not help but see a true leader emerge. In over 25 years in law enforcement, never have I been more inspired or more impressed with any officer's dedication, spirit and commitment." In addition to his duties at the department, Officer Thompson often speaks to recruit classes about law enforcement as a career as well as the risks and dangers of high speed pursuits.
It has been an incredible six years for the Thompson family. A humble man, Officer Thompson points out that he could never have made such strides alone. He credits his wife Ann and three sons (twins were born in July 2000) for helping him with the challenges he has overcome and the ones he has yet to face. Together this family's courage has become an inspiration for everyone who hears their incredible story.