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Silhouettes profiles Donna Lusczynski

By Tiffany Razzano
Originally published April 21, 2017

As a child growing up in New Jersey, Donna Lusczynski never dreamed of a career in law enforcement. But that’s where she ended up, eventually serving the community as a colonel in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. She’s the first woman to hold the rank, which she considers an honor.
Initially, Lusczynski was drawn to marine biology and thought one day she might work with dolphins.
After graduating from high school, she looked into marine biology programs in Maine and Florida. Ultimately, she decided to move to an area with warmer weather and attended the University of Tampa.
Lusczynski was also mildly interested in criminology. “So I took those courses along with my marine biology ones,” she said.
After several years at UT, she realized it was unlikely she would land her dream job. “I was thinking Sea World at that point, but it was difficult to get into without a lot of connections and further schooling,” she said. So she switched her major to criminology.
During her senior year, she interned with the Tampa Police Department to ensure that law enforcement was the right path for her. “Immediately, I got hooked,” she said, “and I realized I wanted to pursue it. The more I was immersed in it, the more I really felt a connection.”
She was hired by the sheriff’s office and began attending the police academy before UT’s graduation ceremony took place.
She started off as a patrol officer before joining the Street Crimes Unit, the lower-level drug crime unit in the sheriff’s office. She worked undercover in the University of South Florida area. After eight months, she became a detective and moved up to the narcotics and vice squads. “We were trying to target higher-level dealers, not just those selling on the street corners,” Lusczynski explained. “We worked to identify drug organizations and take those people off the streets.”
She also did some undercover prostitution work with the vice squad. She worked in narcotics and vice from 1994 to 2000.
That’s when she was promoted to corporal and moved to internal affairs. It was an entirely different animal compared to narcotics and vice cases
“It was a big challenge because it was completely different,” she said. “With narcotics and vice, you’re essentially committing a crime for a better purpose. In internal affairs, you’re investigating the behavior of other personnel. It was a challenge, but it was a great experience for my career. I got to deal with all areas of the office and it helped me get a bigger view of the total operation of our agency.”
She earned her stripes as sergeant and moved to the Juvenile Services Section of the Criminal Investigations Division in 2004. From there, she moved into the newly created Child Protective Investigations Division. “We started that from the ground up,” she said.
The sheriff’s office took over operations from the State Department of Children and Families. Lusczynski and her team set up the new division’s structure and processed and hired its staff. “It was a complete start-to-finish operation,” she said. “Again, it exposed me to a lot of the administrative tasks and allowed me to set up a division from the very bottom to completion.” While there, she was promoted to lieutenant.
Eventually, she was promoted again, to the rank of captain, and assigned to Patrol District III. “I hadn’t been [on patrol] in a while, so it was good for me,” she said.
She was then promoted to the rank of major and became the division commander of the Special Investigations Division, which brought her back to her early career work in narcotics and vice. “I was very familiar with that,” Lusczynski noted.
When a colleague retired, she then took over the Criminal Investigations Division as commander. In this division, she handled a variety of cases – juvenile, homicide, violent crimes. “It exposed me to even more areas I hadn’t been intimately involved with,” she said.
She went on to receive a master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University. She also trained with the prestigious FBI National Academy, a leadership course for local law enforcement.
In 2012, she was promoted to colonel and became commander of the Department of Investigative Services, overseeing Special Investigations, Criminal Investigations and Child Protective Investigations Divisions. “I was fortunate to have already worked in each of those three areas,” she said.
On a daily basis, she works closely with the majors of these divisions “to make sure administratively they have what they need,” she said. “I also respond out on major homicides or significant cases.”
Two cases stick out in her mind, both homicides in the affluent community of Avila in North Tampa. One took place on Super Bowl Sunday, she recalled. An employee for a couple living in the community robbed the wife and killed the husband. “It was a high-profile incident,” Lusczynski said. “We didn’t know he was involved, initially. It took a lot of great work to figure it out.”
The second case involved a father murdering his two children and his wife before setting their home on fire. “That was a very public case as well,” she said. “Not just because of the manner in which he did it, but because the house was owned by a former tennis player. It was a very disturbing scene. Anytime you have a father kill his children, it’s horrible.”
She added, “They were both pretty brutal crimes.”
Working in law enforcement can be a challenge mentally, Lusczynski said. So she tries to focus on the positive.
“I just remind myself that the work that we’re doing provides some justice to the families and the victims. We take the reins, take hold and do the best we can so we can provide some peace in this horrible time,” she said.
She added, “There’s a lot of good out there. I see the good my detectives do. I see the positive. I don’t want it to seem dark and dreary. We help people and children and that’s what’s important to us.”

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