Keizer Police Sgt. Andrew Copeland and Officer Rodney Bamford were awarded the Keizer Police Medal of Valor. KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox

CAUTION: Video contains some graphic language around 2:00 mark (Video courtesy Keizer Police).

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Two Keizer Police officers were awarded a Medal of Valor for putting their lives on the line.

Sgt. Andrew Copeland and Officer Rodney Bamford were first on scene to a crash in north Salem. A man was trapped in a car that had turned upside down at the intersection of River Road and Front Street, with a downed power transformer in flames nearby.

They were awarded the medals at Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting.

The crash was in September 2011, when Salem requested the two officers to check out a crash just south of the Keizer border.

“Because of Sergeant Copeland’s and Officer Bamford’s quick thinking and willingness to risk their own safety, a citizen’s life was saved,” said Keizer Police Chief Marc Adams.

Copeland arrived on scene to find a car turned upside down on the pavement, with an adjacent vehicle in flames just feet from the car, and a live power line nearby. Witnesses said the car had been going at least 80 miles per hour.

The driver was upside down in the car when Copeland tried to talk him into getting out of the car before the fire got worse, but he wasn’t interested. In fact, he kept insisting he was fine.

“The fire was getting bigger and hotter, and I was like, we need to get this guy out of here, right now,” Copeland said.

The driver had shifted about halfway towards the passenger side. Bamford tried to get to the man via the driver’s side window, but it was too hot.

The two then crawled into the passenger side, grabbed the man and pulled him to safety.

“He’s a big guy, so for us to just reach in, grab him and pull him out to get him and ourselves to safety wasn’t an easy ordeal,” Bamford said. “From time to time, unfortunately we have to deal with people who aren’t cooperative or know what’s going on.”

Bamford, a former detective who chose to go back out on patrol to “get reacquainted with the road,” said it’s days like this that make the job great.

“It’s the same job, but it just continually changes a little every day, and that’s what’s so great about this job,” Bamford said.

Copeland said that he hopes the ordeal – and their recognition – serves to draw attention to what police officers do every day (and night).

“We do risk the chance of putting our life on the line for someone else,” Copeland said. “But that’s part of the job and we understand the inherent risks that come with it.”

He’s seen plenty of dangerous situations too, having been a former SWAT officer.

“When you look back watch the video and feel the emotions again of how the whole thing played out, it was pretty intense,” Copeland said.