Officer Kevin Trees
Louisville (KY) Metro Police Department
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer Kevin Trees of the Louisville (KY) Metro Police Department as Officer of the Month for January 2007.
“By all accounts, Kevin Trees should have died three years ago. His body was horribly broken following a motorcycle accident and he wasn’t given good odds by the doctors. But he wouldn’t give up. He was determined to overcome his injuries.” Sergeant Rick Saylor of the Louisville (KY) Metro Police Department describes the horrific turn of events that took place in 2003 that would forever change the life, and career of Officer Kevin Trees.
Officer Trees began his law enforcement career with the Louisville (KY) Metro Police Department in 1999. It didn’t take long for Officer Trees to start making a name for himself within the department.
In August of 2000, only months from graduating the academy, Officer Trees noticed a house fire while on patrol. Immediately he called in a report and blocked traffic setting up a safe perimeter around the fire. While he was checking the status of the occupants of the home, the fire grew and quickly spread to a nearby house. Officer Trees was calling for additional help when a resident informed him that residents were still in the house where the fire had just spread. Without hesitation, Officer Trees entered the burning residence. The intense fire caused Officer Trees to be showered with shattered glass and other debris yet he continued throughout the house until he observed the last two residents exiting the building. He exited the building and continued maintaining a perimeter until help arrived. For his selfless actions that day, Officer Trees was awarded the department’s “Lifesaving Award.”
Less than a year later, Officer Trees alongside three fellow officers discovered a house fire as one of the officers heard breaking glass while on routine patrol and went to investigate. The officers began breaking the glass windows on the first floor in order to gain access to the house. Upon entering, they tried to battle the flames into submission but were not successful. However, they were able to control it to the point that the officers could reach the three occupants, a grandmother, mother, and child. Officer Trees was able to get to the infant and carry it out of the house safely. The mother followed escorted out, and the grandmother was taken to the roof, accompanied by an officer, and rescued by ladder from the Louisville Police Department. Once again Officer Trees, as well as the other officers involved, were recognized for their courageous, selfless acts and awarded the department’s “Lifesaving Award.”
In 2003, Officer Trees, a resource officer at the time, began growing tired of the drug scene in the 4th district of Louisville, where he was assigned. “I was arresting the same people at the same time and at the same locations,” said Trees. “I Thought, ‘Maybe if we eliminate the source, we can eliminate the crime.” Trees began working with city officials and landlords to target the vacant houses that were consistently targets for drugs and prostitution. Trees was able to find a city nuisance ordinance that was established in 1997 and amended in 2000. With the backing of this ordinance and the city inspections department, Officer Trees helped set up a system that held the landowners more responsible for these drug houses. If two arrests were made at the same spot, the landowner would be notified. If a third occurred before a 20-day response period, the landowner faces a $500 fine. Yet if the problem continues, the landowner faces a $5,000 fine as well as a vacancy order for 12 months. This effort was extremely effective and several houses were boarded up due to infractions, while at least 46 other houses resolved the problem before vacancy was ordered.
It had only been three years since Officer Trees had joined the force, yet there he stood, humbled, as he accepted the 2003 Lexington Police Department Officer of the Year Award. His efforts to clean up the streets were noticed not only by the department, but the community as well. His program was so effective that other districts and counties adopted the program. Yet Officer Trees storied young career was about to come to a screeching halt, literally.
Only three weeks after being awarded the LPD Officer of the Year award, Officer Trees decided to go for a ride on his Honda Interceptor motorcycle before he had to pick up his children from school. While riding around, Officer Tree’s motorcycle struck a piece of wood and began to go out of control. As a tree was fast approaching, Officers Trees made a last second attempt to bail of off the motorcycle but it was too late. His body hit the tree as his motorcycle rolled off the road. Although he had been wearing all of the protective gear, the damage to the right side of his body was massive. He had broken numerous bones and now was in need of a new hip as well as a new knee. He had pins put into his right arm, a rod in the lower part of his leg, and the bone beneath his right knee had been completely shattered.
Support for Officer Trees and his family poured out of the community that he served so well. Officer Trees’ wife, Christie, spend countless nights at the hospital wondering what was to come. She was overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of friends and her husband’s co-workers. But everyone one knew, it was going to be a long, hard road for recovery.
Officer Trees endured over two and half years of recovery including over 33 operations. Tragically, there was nothing the doctors could do and were forced to amputate his right leg above the knee. It was a devastating blow to Trees, his family, and his department and many believed his career as a law enforcement officer was finished. Yet as Trees’ nominator Sergeant Rick Saylor stated, “I tried to be encouraging to him but I also felt it would be a tremendous battle for him to ever return to active police work. However I would soon discover that Kevin was a man with an indomitable spirit who specialized in overcoming obstacles.” Officer Trees was fitted with a prothestetic leg and vowed to master the new apparatus.
Within a few weeks, Officer Trees was moving around on his new leg and within a few months he had accomplished his goal. He had not only mastered the new leg, but in April 2006, Officer Trees executed a rigorous physical fitness test observed by the department’s physician and the Chief. He not only passed the test, but was reinstated as a full time active duty officer. He had returned to the force against all odds. Officer Trees shares this special accomplishment with less than a handful of other officers throughout the history of law enforcement.
One way Officer Trees continues to work with his new leg is through karate. Major Bill Weedman, a fellow officer and 20-year expert in karate, trains with Trees. The training gives Trees the confidence to be able to handle any situation an officer might encounter. “This man’s got two good legs,” Says Weedman. “The difference is he can take one of them off.”
Flying has always been a lifelong dream for Officer Trees. So when an opening became available within the departments aviation team, he applied. Trees had to compete against other officers through competitive interviewing, but sure enough he was selected to join the unit. Currently he is well into his flight training. He has passed his FAA written examinations and is working towards his practicum. Officer Trees doesn’t seem himself with a disability but rather, “I feel like I am the luckiest guy in the world, and I don’t take anything for granted.”
“In spite of all of his accomplishments, Officer Trees maintains a positive and humble attitude, using his accident as an advantage to minister to others who have undergone amputee surgery. He regularly visits and converses with amputees in order to provide encouragement,” explains Major Weedman.
Sergeant Rick Saylor sums up his nomination of Officer Trees by stating, “His ordeal has been a wonderful lesson to the rest of us. When things look bleak, don’t give up the fight. You never know what the future holds for you.” Officer Kevin Trees continues to protect and serve the community of Louisville, Kentucky. Sometimes on the air, and sometimes on the ground. He and his wife, Christie, still reside in the area with their two children.
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.