They met as softball rivals but wouldn’t compete for long.
“We weren’t on the same team,” Toni Hill explained. “I was guarding first base, and she came running towards me with a big grin. I started laughing because of her pigtails. She was clearly not the type of girl that wears pigtails. We were both chuckling for a while before she ran off to second.”
Hill and Mansell became romantic and bought a house together, where they lived for several years.
“The law enforcement stories she told me in those days were so inspiring that she made me want to become a police officer myself. So I did.”
As coworkers in the Tulsa Police Department, Hill remembers Mansell’s dedication.
“People in this profession can always default to using force, but the truth is that it doesn’t work well. You have to get on their soft side. Jennifer was street smart and knew how to use humor and kindness to determine the situation.”
Mansell passed away in January following a battle with breast cancer, but left behind reminders of her thoughtfulness.
“After she died, I found a pack of cigarettes in her car. She had bought them to give away to someone who needed them. I know it sounds odd that a police officer—especially one with cancer—would buy somebody cigarettes, but she knew what she was doing. For homeless people who don’t have anything, cigarettes can be the highest luxury, and they would be very touched. Or for someone who is shaken up from trauma and can’t talk about it until they relax, cigarettes can be the one thing that helps the person calm down and give the information we need. That kind of thoughtfulness was Jennifer’s strong suit, and it’s what helped her talk people out of jumping off of bridges and buildings, which she did at least twice.”
Though Hill’s romantic relationship with Mansell ended in 1994, they remained close. “It turned out that we were better friends than girlfriends. She went on to find a perfect partner.”
Mansell passed away in January, just shy of her 14th anniversary with partner Cathy Baker.