GPD officer played role in church arson case

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2006

It’s not everyday someone serving on a small-town police force can say they played a part in a high-profile criminal case receiving national attention.

It’s a claim Greenville PD Patrol Officer Jennifer Thomason can rightfully make. Thomason has only served with the department since July 2005, but she’s already gotten to see firsthand how federal law enforcement agencies and task forces work a case.

The former regional loss prevention manager for Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club used her knowledge and contacts to assist authorities who were researching tire treads and tire distribution as part of the investigation of a string of church arsons.

Jim Cavanaugh, the regional director of the Bureau of ATF, first met Thomason when he served as keynote speaker at her police academy graduation.

&uot;Cavanaugh remembered Jennifer had previously worked in loss prevention for Sam’s and thought she could be of benefit to the arson investigation, due to her contacts and experience,&uot; GPD Chief Lonzo Ingram said.

Thomason said she felt &uot;honored&uot; to be asked to assist in the investigation.

&uot;They needed someone who knew the ins and outs, and I was able to tell them what I knew and put them in contact with the right people…I certainly didn’t solve the case, but I helped by using my previous knowledge and experience, which made me feel good.&uot;

Ingram is proud of the role one of Greenville’s finest had in the case.

&uot;Even though the tires ultimately didn’t come from Wal-Mart, Jennifer still facilitated the task force in being able to determine who was culpable. I think it’s really interesting we have a connection to the church arson case,&uot; the police chief said.

The 26-year-old University of North Alabama graduate, who holds a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice, said she is very happy in her work with the GPD.

&uot;My parents didn’t really want me to go into law enforcement, but now that they see how much I enjoy it, they are a lot more accepting,&uot; the Hoover native said.

&uot;I enjoyed my previous work in loss prevention, but I truly love this job. It’s a great opportunity to use my education is a career that is satisfying. I’m just happy the chief gave me this opportunity.&uot;

Thomason said the best part of her job is &uot;seeing the fruits of what you do, doing something good for your community and city.&uot;

She also sees the city she serves as one that supports its officers.

&uot;I think the chief, city council and mayor really do care about us being well trained and having what we need to do our jobs well…I think we have one of the best departments in the state, particularly for a town this size.&uot;