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Amber Lubaszka (’23): Intelligence Analyst, Chicago HIDTA

Amber Lubaszka (’23) has always had a passion for law enforcement and a desire to serve her community. After becoming an intelligence analyst with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office, she enrolled in IWP’s Online Certificate in Statecraft program, focusing on intelligence. She is now serving as an intelligence analyst with the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), where she works in the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) Chicago Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC).Amber Lubaszka IWP Headhsot

Pursuing studies in criminal justice and public administration

Born and raised in New York, Amber has lived between New York and New Jersey for most of her life. At St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) in New York, Amber majored in English while taking multiple electives in criminal justice. “I really enjoyed learning about the criminal justice system, and I realized that is what I wanted to do for my career,” said Amber.

She continued her studies at STAC for a master’s degree in public administration: “It was a close-knit community there. I loved the college.”

During graduate school, Amber did an internship with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. There, Amber served as a liaison and administrator for the Safe Schools Task Force, which was implemented as a partnership with various stakeholders, including local police departments and the Bergen County Regional SWAT Team. Officers would go to local schools and give presentations about active shooter situations. They would also help the schools determine how to make the school safer, with a focus on prevention. “It was amazing,” said Amber. “I loved that internship.”

It was during this internship that Amber discovered that she was interested in intelligence work. “I walked into their Intelligence and Counterterrorism Unit and helped them with a surveillance project. I realized that this was what I wanted to do!”

Amber presenting her Master's Capstone
Amber presenting her STAC master’s capstone project on February 19th, 2020. The name of her project was “Secure, Lock, And Protect: Safe Storage of Firearms to Prevent Juvenile Injuries and Death.”

Beginning a career in criminal justice

After graduation, Amber was determined to become familiar with the workings of the New York criminal justice system with a goal of working in the Crime Strategies Bureau.

She first began working at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, where she served for three and a half years. She began as a trial preparation assistant in the Vehicular Crime Unit and worked on vehicular crimes cases with an emphasis on rehabilitation efforts and case tracking. She also served as a liaison for substance abuse programming throughout Bronx County.

With this experience under her belt, Amber was able to achieve her goal – she transferred to the Crime Strategies Bureau to become an intelligence analyst. There, she did a variety of tasks, including reviewing ATF trace reports, creating workups on firearms cases, and helping the Assistant District Attorneys in her office with case enhancement.

On a day-to-day basis, Amber conducted a lot of open-source intelligence.

“I wanted to further my education in intelligence and make my background more specialized,” said Amber. She began studying in IWP’s Online Certificate in Statecraft Program.

Meanwhile, she continued her work in the Bronx.

“It was eye-opening work,” said Amber. “New York City is plagued with gun violence, so our goal was to combat that with different strategies. I also worked on auto theft and retail theft. I found that I loved doing firearms intelligence.”

Amber received a plaque from the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office in recognition of her years of service.
Amber received a plaque from the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office in recognition of her years of service.

Focusing on firearms intelligence

Amber became interested in working with ATF, which has partnerships with police departments throughout the country. She recently made a big move to Chicago to serve on detail with its Crime Gun Intelligence Center – a partnership between ATF and the Chicago Police Department – as a contractor for Chicago HIDTA.

“I have been training and learning as much as I can,” said Amber. “Chicago is a whole different city – I’m learning its laws, gaining an understanding of how arrests are conducted, and meeting different people in different police districts.”

On a day-to-day basis, Amber will be working with ATF agents and doing workups on their cases – running phone numbers, conducting open-source intelligence, doing social media workups, and more. Her work will help with the cases in general and support ATF agents so they can execute a search warrant or conduct an arrest.

Amber works with a system that ATF uses called NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistics Information Network) for some of her intelligence work. This system allows for the sharing of ballistics intelligence across the United States.

When asked what it is like to be a woman in law enforcement, Amber said, “It’s a predominantly male profession, but more females are becoming officers and analysts. Both federal and local agencies have been joining the 30×30 Initiative, a national grassroots effort to increase the number of women in law enforcement and to improve the experience of women in this field.

“It’s important to be respected in what you can do, no matter your race, gender, etc. If you put yourself out there as the worker that you are, you can take that anywhere. For me, working in law enforcement is always something I wanted to do. I gravitated towards serving the community.”

Studying intelligence at IWP

With a B.A. and M.A. already under her belt, the Certificate program was a great choice for Amber. When asked about her experience at IWP, Amber said, “It was phenomenal. The professors were great. I still have connections that I use as references now. The program helped me in so many ways.”

Within the Online Certificate in Statecraft program, students can choose one of several specializations, and Amber chose the Specialization in Intelligence.

She said, “One of my classes helped me learn how to think as an analyst, which is a different way of working. I know I can do a workup, but the class helped me with how to think analytically and put the pieces together.”

Amber learned about the intelligence cycle, how important and widespread intelligence is in general, and how our intelligence structure came about, all using real-life scenarios. In her classes, she discussed topics like intelligence sharing, intelligence issues with our nation’s adversaries, and what methods were used successfully.

Because she was working in the District Attorney’s Office at the time, Amber found herself researching the legal side of intelligence, focusing on executive orders. “I did a lot of research on Executive Order 12333, which formed the foundation for what different federal agencies do in the intelligence space,” said Amber. She also learned about the impact of 9/11 on the intelligence community and the preventative measures that have been taken since then.

She also did a project on firearms trafficking. Her capstone project at STAC involved developing a program for the safe storage of firearms. At IWP, Amber researched President Biden’s Executive Order 14010: U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration in Central America. She focused on how this order seeks to combat gun trafficking by allocating more resources to Central American countries that have been plagued with gun violence. She presented her research to the class and fielded a question from a fellow student about the 3-D printing of firearms – a topic that was also a huge issue in New York where Amber was working at the time, as well as in Chicago and in the United States as a whole.

“Every class I took has been immensely helpful in my career,” said Amber. “The professors were knowledgeable, and many have worked in the federal government or some sort of government agency.”

 Every class I took has been immensely helpful in my career. The professors were knowledgeable, and many have worked in the federal government or some sort of government agency.

When asked whether she was able to make meaningful connections with faculty and fellow students in the online format, Amber said that she did. Some of her classes were entirely online where she did not see people face to face, but some of her classes met virtually once or twice a week. “Everyone was willing to help, whether it was a professor or one of the classmates. These connections are important because you don’t know where your career will take you. If you don’t have a contact somewhere, someone does!”

One thing that IWP emphasized was being more aware of your surroundings and what is happening. This was one of Amber’s biggest takeaways from the program: “What I have used in my current jobs, and what I will continue to do moving forward is to take a step back, take everything in, and not believe everything I see. It is important to do your own research and to vet the sources you are reading and the information you are getting.”

Amber with IWP Dean of Academics Dr. James Robbins
Amber with IWP Dean of Academics Dr. James Robbins

The impact of Amber’s law enforcement work

Amber has been able to see the real results of her work in criminal justice. When she was working in the Bronx, New York City passed a reform law that emphasized restorative justice. Amber served as a case manager for many people who needed help, including people with substance abuse issues.

“This program had a huge impact on people,” said Amber. “People really had to commit themselves to a life of sobriety. They had to do an alcohol education program, a victim impact panel, a parenting class, etc. We had a high success rate. I saw only one person fail the program, and I had over 100 cases. In this program, the criminal justice system was working.”

As an intelligence analyst in the Bronx, Amber was able to work on two cases that involved veterans. “Veterans have served our country, and many of them have been through a lot,” said Amber. “In many cases, they deserve a second chance. The criminal justice system is there to protect us, but it’s also there to help people get the services that they need.”

Amber sees the results of her work not only with the individuals who have been through the criminal justice system – the positive benefits of rehabilitation trickle down to everyone around them, including their families and children. “Seeing the impact in people’s lives gives a sense of purpose to the work I do,” said Amber. “Those who accept the mission in public service have a duty to protect and serve, but understanding the vulnerabilities and disparities of humanity pushes me towards making a real difference in the communities I serve.”

Amber at IWP Commencement with Chairman John Lovewell, Chancellor Dr. John Lenczowski, and President Amb. Aldona Woś.
Amber at IWP Commencement with Chairman John Lovewell, Chancellor Dr. John Lenczowski, and President Amb. Aldona Woś.