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Although she doesn’t wear a badge or carry a weapon, Laura Thomas plays a key role in fighting crime and improving public safety within the City of Bristol, Tennessee.
A complex computer program and a thick manual of guidelines are the tools of her trade, allowing her to choose tidbits of information from every police report filed by the Bristol Tennessee Police Department and use it to officially determine the community’s crime rate. This data, in turn, helps the BTPD determine its crime-fighting priorities and is often used as an indicator of the overall quality of life for businesses and individuals considering a move to the area.
The challenge, she explained, is that police officers file charges based on laws included in Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA), which is often different than the way offenses are categorized within the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS) used by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Even without all the acronyms, it would be a bit confusing and, as an added bit of pressure, TBI closely monitors her work for errors.
“It’s really important to submit accurate information,” she said.
Additionally, she helps members of the public locate police reports, complete paperwork needed to get a conviction expunged, and record warrants so the information is readily available to officers in the field – among other things.
A Bristol native, Laura graduated from Tennessee High School, then earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education from Northeast State Community College and a bachelor’s degree in social work from King University. She began her tenure with the City as a sidekick to Patty Summey, who served as TIBRS Reporting Agency Coordinator for several years and trained Laura on the intricate details of the position. When Patty was promoted, Laura moved up, too. In addition to a rewarding career, she inherited a treasured work family.
“I work really closely with the police officers, and we’re all like one great big family,” she said, explaining that dispatchers and records clerks are civilian members of the BTPD. “I really love the people I work with.”
Especially BTPD Officer Tyler Thomas, her best friend, husband, and partner in life. They met in high school and were friends for many years before they became a couple. Now married three years, they plan to start a family in the not-too-distance future but are content now with “fur babies” Oakley, a silver Labrador; Macy, a black Shih Tzu; and Presley, a retriever/collie mix they adopted after her picture was advertised as a stray on the City’s Facebook page. When not serving the public in their respective roles, the couple enjoys days spent on the lake, fishing, swimming, and enjoying picnics.
Family is important to her, she said, noting that she enjoyed a unique childhood surrounded by her parents – both her biological mother and the couple who adopted her at birth. Her biological mother was just 14 when Laura was born and knew she couldn’t adequately care for an infant. Her new parents adopted her during a court hearing within the same building where Laura now works and remained close to Laura’s biological mother until her death several years ago.
“I’ve always been surrounded by people who love me,” she said.
At the end of a long workday spent reviewing police reports and entering data, Laura enjoys working off pent up energy at Lady Fit, a Johnson City fitness studio that allows her to burn calories while dancing. She danced throughout her childhood, she said, and still enjoys the cardio workout. She loves the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, too, as evidenced by the Elvis picture on her desk and the name chosen for her newest pet.
More than anything, she enjoys serving others – members of the public and those she works with throughout the City. She is always available to help police officers complete reports, to collect data for those who need it, and even has been known to organize potluck lunches for the men and women within the BTPD. It’s her way of making a tough job a little easier, she said, and showing appreciation for those who sacrifice so much.
As we look forward to National Police Week – May 15-21, 2023 – the City of Bristol is proud to salute Laura Thomas for the valuable work she does to assist the BTPD and her genuine kindness toward others. She’s another great example of #BristolatWork.