Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

Hillsborough Sheriff's Office recruiters target women

TAMPA

Detective Andrea Davis does CrossFit. Working undercover, she bought a sawed-off shotgun from a gang member. And she wears heels to work.

Davis is one of the faces of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's campaign to hire more women — the first such initiative in the agency's history.

Just three sheriffs ago, the agency had a reputation of being cold toward women. Sheriff Malcolm Beard got into tussles with the National Organization for Women in the 1970s and wasn't keen on federal employment laws that pushed diverse hiring. Female hires were put in limited roles, such as juvenile crime.

Now, recruiters are designing posters that show several female deputies in different scenes. They're in uniform. At the gym. Wearing dresses in Hyde Park.

"We want to show that we are real women," said Davis, who works in recruitment and screening.

Currently, the agency has about 2,230 sworn positions. Only about 415 are filled by women. That's 19 percent.

Lt. Jim Bradford, who oversees training and recruiting, says the agency doesn't have a quantifiable goal for its new campaign. Sheriff's officials mostly just want to increase the pool of qualified candidates, and their guess is that Florida has plenty of intelligent, athletic women who'd be perfect for the agency — if only they'd consider law enforcement.

"People think of a cop as a 6-foot-4, burly man," Davis said. "Little girls usually don't grow up wanting to be police officers. Little boys do."

Davis herself never considered becoming a deputy until college. She shadowed a female officer in the Panhandle who was petite, just like the 5-foot-1 Davis. It was exciting, she remembers.

Sheriff's officials also hope increasing the number of female deputies will strengthen the agency. Sometimes crime victims want to talk to a woman, said Col. Ed Duncan, who also oversees recruiting.

Duncan, who was hired in 1978, remembers his early years, when women's roles were limited. But things slowly evolved. The Sheriff's Office has had a female canine handler, diver and motorcycle deputy.

Recruiters plan to pin the posters at gyms and colleges. Those are the type of women they want, after all. They've already started talking with the coaches of female athletic teams at Florida universities.

They also mentor female applicants, advising them along the way.

One of the first steps in the often six-to nine-month hiring process is a physical test. Everyone — male and female — has to run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes, do 20 push-ups, 25 sit-ups and sprint 300 meters in 69 seconds.

The hardest part for the women is the push-ups, so recruiter Detective Elvira Huggins advises female applicants and helps them devise a work-out plan.

Jessica Dillon, 23, started training about six months ago, and at a recent physical test, she did 32 pushups and passed every test.

As she gasped for breath recently, she said she was proud of herself. She's one step closer to her dream job.

"To protect and serve," she said. "It feels like the right thing to do."

Dillon, who is studying criminal justice at Saint Leo University, said she expected the male-to-female ratio she saw at the recruiting event. There were 27 men and three women.

Another woman at the physical test, 22-year-old Taishea Donald did 51 pushups. The muscular man next to her nodded his head in approval.

She smiled.

"I'm naturally athletic," she said later.

And though the sheriff and most of the top brass are males, there's one high-ranking female who deputies can look to: the recently promoted Col. Donna Lusczynski, who was hired in 1991.

She oversees the Criminal Investigations Division, which includes homicide, sex crimes, child abuse, narcotics and gang investigations.

Lusczynski heard about the recruiting office's push to hire more women at a recent staff meeting and thought it was a great idea.

"It's becoming more popular now, but when I started, it wasn't an occupation that was pushed and promoted for females," she said.

In college, Lusczynski studied marine biology and took a few criminology courses. Crime turned out to be much more interesting than sea life, and she graduated with a criminology degree from the University of Tampa.

She thinks the stereotypical male officer is becoming an idea of the past.

"You can still be feminine, have a family and do other things," she said. "Male or female, anybody who works to achieve a certain rank has paid their dues and made those sacrifices. It's something I find rewarding."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

 
Comments
Deputies: Florida man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

Deputies: Florida man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

ST. PETERSBURG — A man punched a 13-year-old girl inside a RaceTrac convenience store Saturday, knocking her unconscious as her parent pumped gas outside, Pinellas deputies reported.Kolbe Wayne Smith, 27, of St. Petersburg now faces charges of aggrav...
Updated: 9 hours ago
4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A nearly naked gunman wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault rifle stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville early Sunday, shooting four people to death before a customer rushed him and wrestled the weapo...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa Police investigating fatal hit-and-run on Selmon Expressway

Tampa Police investigating fatal hit-and-run on Selmon Expressway

TAMPA — Police say a person is dead after a hit-and-run crash Sunday on the Selmon Expressway.Someone called authorities about 10 a.m., reporting a person on the entrance ramp to the highway near the intersection of W Cleveland Street and S Willow Av...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Teen killed in crash remembered as

Teen killed in crash remembered as "always smiling and laughing"

WEEKI WACHEE — Seth Leathers was on his way to play basketball at his church when he was killed Wednesday in a car crash on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, according to family friend Laurie Pike.Leathers, 16, was the passenger in a car driven by his friend G...
Published: 04/22/18
New Port Richey doctor dies in single-car crash on SR 580

New Port Richey doctor dies in single-car crash on SR 580

A 49-year-old doctor died early Saturday in a single-car crash on State Road 580.Kristin Carlin, of New Port Richey, was driving in the eastbound lanes of SR 580 shortly before 6 a.m. when she failed to round a curve and veered off the road near Char...
Published: 04/21/18
Updated: 04/22/18
Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

The first time deputies arrested Samuel Morrissey Jr., he faced charges of possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed firearm. He plead no contest in September, and the judge gave him a break by withholding adjudication. Ten days later, the 20-...
Published: 04/21/18
Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Deputies arrested a man they said tackled a woman in February and removed her shorts before fleeing.Robert Mark Hembree Jr., 31, was arrested late Friday. He faces charges of sexual battery and petit theft.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Detectives seek man who a...
Published: 04/21/18
Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

A Pasco County man was struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run early Saturday, police said.Thomas Michael Burdeshaw, 53, who lived on Sundance Drive in Dade City, was hit about 1:45 a.m. on the 36000 block of Blanton Road, police said.Witnesses ...
Published: 04/21/18
Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

CLEARWATER — Police are looking for a person who shot and killed a man late Friday at the Melrose on the Bay apartments on Bolesta Road. Ricardo Guzman, 32, called 911 just before midnight and told the operator he had been shot, said Lt. Randall Chan...
Published: 04/21/18
Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

TAMPA — A motorcyclist driving north on Memorial Highway died after he crashed into a guard rail late Friday, police said."The man failed to negotiate a curve in the road and struck a guard rail," said Lt. Brett Owen. "No other vehicle was involved i...
Published: 04/21/18