By DYLAN HART
USFSP Student Reporter
ST. PETERSBURG – You might not know it from her calm, collected demeanor, but Kristen Thomas craves activity.
Thomas, 28, is a native of New York City. She attended Morrisville State College (now SUNY Morrisville) in upstate New York, the only college in the country with her major: horse racing.
While earning a degree in equine racing management, Thomas worked part time as a horse trainer in the area. She once rode a $14 million horse that won the Belmont Stakes, a prestigious thoroughbred race in Elmont, New York.
Now, she’s traded the saddle for a badge, and she rolls through the streets of St. Petersburg in a police cruiser, eager to find crime and take it down.
Thomas graduated from Morrisville and went into the workforce as a foreman working in natural resources. Her job brought her to Florida in the winters, and she fell in love with the warm weather. She moved down and soon entered the police academy in St. Petersburg.
Thomas says she is drawn to police work because of the variety of activity and interesting cases. She drives long distances across District 2 in north St. Petersburg and spends a lot of time at red lights filing out reports, but it’s clear that she’s ready for anything.
“I have to be outside doing things,” Thomas said. “I have the attention span of a goldfish.”
She has been on the force for two years and is not afraid to get her hands dirty – sometimes literally.
If another officer offers to let her “glove up” and search a suspect’s belongings, she’s excited.
Her favorite calls are drug and DUI-related cases, where she knows her work won’t be wasted.
Sometimes a victim of a crime like theft or assault “will decide not to prosecute” a case, she said. But the state attorney’s office will almost always pursue drug cases to the end. Thomas appreciates that; she hates to see her hours spent writing reports go to waste.
On the job, Thomas seems to have learned a lot about awkward silences. She seems adept at using silence when questioning suspects.
Thomas is a dog lover and says her favorite activity outside of work is spending time with her sheltie, Winston. She also enjoys running when she has the time and energy, but acknowledges she doesn’t run as much as she would like.
She works closely with fellow officers in her district and sees them multiple times a day, helping respond to calls ranging from shoplifting kids to burglaries in progress. Even if they tease her for loving horses or her queasiness about bugs, Thomas says, she feels a strong bond with them.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit group,” she said of the officers in District 2. “At the end of the day, we know we would take a bullet for each other.”
She has applied to join the Police Department’s mounted unit, but she says she would want only part-time duty there.
She worries that she would regret trading regular police work for the prestige of riding a horse around downtown.
But she says that she “would have really liked to have had a horse in some of the foot chases I’ve been in.”