By Martin Clear
He never really wanted to be a cop. Now he never wants to be anything else.
He's apparently pretty good at it, too. Officer Jason Thomas was recently named the Tampa International Airport Police Department's Officer of the Year.
He had been named Officer of the Quarter -- a prerequisite for the Officer of the Year Award - partly because of his involvement in two high-profile cases.
In one, he apprehended a Lakeland pharmacist who had murdered her one-year-old son.
The other case involved a man who was renting cars with stolen credit cards and then selling them.
Officer Thomas joined the department five years ago, taking a meandering route into his career.
"I attended Hillsborough Community College, not really knowing what I wanted to do," he said. "As an elective I took Introduction to Criminology. The teacher was a former Tampa Police Department detective, and he just had the best stories on the planet."
Officer Thomas took all the courses he could from the teacher, largely because he wanted to hear more of those stories. He ended up with a degree in criminal justice.
But after college he was making a good living running a company that built billiards tables and above-ground swimming pools. It was only when the economy started to decline that he started thinking about going to the police academy.
After graduation, he applied to only two departments - the Tampa Airport Police Department and the Tampa Police Department.
He knew the airport was really where he wanted to be.
His sister, Laura Rozansky, was working with the Airport Police Department as a dispatcher. (She attended the police academy with Officer Thomas, and now serves as the department's manager of police administration.)
Through her and police officers he met, he knew the outstanding reputation of TPA Police Chief Paul Sireci and Deputy Chief Ciro Dominguez.
"They're what we call cops' cops," Office Thomas said. "You know they're going to have your back."
Now that he's been a police officer for a few years, Officer Thomas said, he knows it's his calling.
"This is just the greatest job in the world," he said. "I can't imagine going back to the civilian side."
As for being named Officer of the Year, that has its downside.
"Even when I got Officer of the Quarter, you know, the other guys razz you about it a little bit," he said. "And when I found out I was Officer of the Year, I thought, 'Oh no, now I'm gonna hear about this for a whole year.' "
The biggest honor, he said, will be at the annual Our Heroes Luncheon on May 30, where he'll be honored along with other local law enforcement and fire rescue professionals. His wife Michelle will be there with their six-year-old daughter Jordyn.
"She's gonna get to see her daddy up there being honored," Officer Thomas said.