Geraldine Hart, the first female police commissioner in Suffolk County’s history, officially took the helm on Monday.
Hart, a 21-year-veteran of the FBI, spent her first day as acting commissioner in wall-to-wall meetings, hard at work on her first objective: a top-to-bottom assessment of the department.
“I’ve already built some strong relationships here with the leadership team so it felt like I was able to hit the ground running this morning,” Hart said of her first day.
Hart, the former senior supervisory resident agent in the Long Island office of the FBI, met individually with commanders of the police department’s seven precincts for about half-hour each, officials said. The meetings were designed to give Hart a snapshot from the “boots on the ground,” she said.
The new acting commissioner also went over the organization chart.
Day two is slated to be more of the same, with a new round of meetings, this time with the different bureaus and units. Later in the week, Hart is scheduled to visit the marine and aviation bureaus.
Though Hart cited the recently released crime statistics that reflected an overall drop in crime, Suffolk County is still battling MS-13, the vicious transnational street gang responsible for 25 deaths on Long Island in the past two years. Suffolk also continues to struggle with a record-setting opioid crisis, which is estimated to have led to the deaths of more than 400 people in 2017.
“I’ve had the priorities that I’ve had which are the same as my predecessor: combating opioids and combating gangs,” Hart said, “work that I’ve been doing throughout my career.”
Hart, who joined the FBI in 1996 and moved to the Long Island office in 2014, worked on health care fraud cases and organized crime. She succeeds Timothy Sini, who was commissioner for about two years before being elected Suffolk County district attorney.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone selected Hart in February and highlighted her long law enforcement career, especially her experience heading the Long Island Gang Task Force, with its concentration on MS-13.
More than 100 candidates were considered for the top job. Applicants included some from Suffolk and Nassau police departments and the NYPD, as well as from law enforcement organizations in other states.
But Bellone chose Hart, a mother of two who lives in Sea Cliff, grew up in Northport and graduated from Northport High School in 1985. Her father was an NYPD officer and influenced her interest in law enforcement.
“I am proud that Geri had taken the helm of the police department and will use her decades of FBI experience to tackle the issues involving law enforcement in Suffolk County,” Bellone said in a statement.
Suffolk Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron, who became acting commissioner until Hart took over on Monday, said he’s worked with Hart for a long time while she was with the FBI and is excited to work with her more closely.
“I have found her to be an individual of exceptional talent and integrity. I look forward to working with her in her new role as Suffolk County Police Commissioner,” Cameron said in a statement.
Suffolk County’s 2,500-sworn-officer force, with its $511.2 million budget is far larger than the 120 agents she oversaw as part of the FBI. Nevertheless, Hart said she’s looking forward to the new challenges.
“What draws me to this new role is our work here has a direct impact on the daily lives of the residents of Suffolk county,” Hart said. “Really playing a larger role in the day-to-day safety of our residents is an exciting and gratifying change for me.”