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Suffolk's top cop Geraldine Hart learns counterterror tactics in Israel

Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart on Thursday discussed her July trip to Israel during which she participated in a counterterrorism seminar that she said will allow the department to keep current on emerging threats and how to prevent them on Long Island.  Credit: Newsday / Stefanie Dazio

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart hopes the counterterrorism seminar she attended last month in Israel will help to keep her department current on emerging threats and how to prevent  them on Long Island.

Hart was one of 18 law enforcement officials from the United States who attended the Anti-Defamation League’s invitation-only National Counter-Terrorism  Seminar from July 8 to 14, her office said. Chief of Department Stuart Cameron went to the same seminar in 2013.

Hart said in an interview Thursday one of her priorities was to network with the other police chiefs and officials "to exchange best practices, what we're seeing in our respective areas of responsibility."

“As the 11th largest police force in the nation, it is critical to engage with the highest-regarded intelligence officers and analysts across the globe," County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement Thursday. 

The group met with Israeli police, intelligence and security officials, as well as toured a police academy, airport and holy sites to learn about how their counterparts train for major incidents and protect potential targets. The Anti-Defamation League paid the costs of the trip, which Hart called a "tremendous opportunity." 

"How do we take what we learned and implement it here?" she said. She has not made any major changes since becoming commissioner in April because she's still learning how the department operates. 

Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini echoed the usefulness of such seminars. 

"It's extremely important for Suffolk County to be thinking outside the box when it comes to fighting crime and looking to other regions to find strategies that have already proven to be successful in combating the same issues we face here,” he said in a statement Thursday. 

With Long Island in Manhattan's shadow, her department must be prepared for catastrophes, Hart said. 

"It's always something that's prevalent on our minds," she said.

Hart said threats appeared to have evolved from Sept. 11-style attacks in major cities to lone-wolf incidents "that can happen anywhere." 

The commissioner stressed the importance of working with other law enforcement agencies. Hart's and Cameron's efforts to foster those relationships come after former Chief of Department James Burke severed ties with the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies. Burke is currently in federal prison for the beating of a suspect and its cover-up.

"We're disseminating as well as receiving information," Hart said. 

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