Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Officer Iwanowski has been serving and protecting the “Gateway to the Gulf” since 2006. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of South Florida and certifications in sex crimes investigations and crimes against children (amongst others). She serves as a crime prevention practitioner, a crisis intervention team member, and as the point of contact for the local human trafficking task force. She also makes a mean chocolate cake.
“I like baking a lot. You can ask any of the officers here,” Officer Iwanowski told the Gabber. “They’ve become my guinea pigs. If I start baking and have a new recipe, it comes to the police department so they can try it out.”
Refining baked goods is one thing, but refining a police officer is a whole different slice of cake.
“I finally felt ready,” said Officer Iwanowski of training rookie officers. “I actually have enough knowledge to help people get into this job and be the best officers they can [be].”
For eight months last year, Officer Iwanowski served as both the acting supervisor of the Gulfport Police Department’s Charlie squad, and as a field-training officer for seven new officers – a task that called for the overseeing of at least one phase of each new officer’s training.
“I’m really proud to say that I’ve trained them,” said Officer Iwanowski. “A lot of them are doing really well.”
Contributing to the success of others is something that appears to come naturally to Officer Iwanowski. Her summations of her work in the field only reflect this.
“Seeing some of the people you’ve dealt with on call that have been able to turn their lives around,” she says, “domestic violence situations where you’ve actually responded to the house and you actually get to witness that female get out of that situation and turn her life around – it’s gratifying.”
Officer Iwanowski’s sense of compassion, however, doesn’t come without presenting its own challenges.
“You’re dealing with people sometimes who are at their worst,” says Officer Iwanowski, “especially if you’re dealing with somebody who’s been abused … The human part of you wants to react because you don’t understand how somebody would want to do something to another person like that. But ultimately you just have to let cooler heads prevail and investigate it and go from there.”
Each year Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent and his staff review nominations for Officer of the Year. This year’s choice was unanimous.