Geraldine Hart ’95L
Her journey to become the first woman to serve as Commissioner of the massive Suffolk County Police Department began when Geraldine Hart ’95L was in the fifth grade and on a class trip to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“It was just so interesting because, at the time, the FBI had everything under one roof. When we walked around during our tour, we could see the ballistics testing going on, and we could see all of the evidence gathered from crime scenes undergoing tests, and the firing range was downstairs,” recalled Ms. Hart, who grew up in Northport, Long Island. “That day gave me a real feel for what an FBI agent does. To me, it was very appealing.”
The excursion, combined with the role model she found in her father, a former sergeant with the New York City Police Department, fueled Ms. Hart’s passion for a career in law enforcement, particularly with the FBI.
Her decision to attend St. John’s School of Law was based, in part, on the FBI’s effort at the time to recruit job candidates who possessed law degrees, according to Ms. Hart. “Earning a Juris Doctor degree definitely made me more competitive for the spot I was looking to fill in the FBI.”
“I also knew that St. John’s had a great reputation in the criminal justice field, they had excellent professors, and it was an easy commute from Northport. So, the University was the perfect fit for me, and it gave me a great foundation,” she said.
That foundation enabled Ms. Hart to maintain a distinguished, 21-year career with the FBI which began in 1996, when she was assigned to work on healthcare fraud investigations in Suffolk and Nassau counties. In 1999, she transferred to the Luchese Organized Crime Squad and was promoted in 2012 to Supervisor Special Agent of the FBI’s Genovese Organized Crime Squad. In 2014, she was selected as the Senior Supervisory Resident Agent, overseeing the FBI’s Long Island office. In this role, she directly supervised the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, composed of agents and law enforcement personnel from 10 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. She also supervised many FBI violent crime investigations, including violence against children. She additionally oversaw the operations committed to investigating white-collar crime, counterterrorism, and counterintelligence squads.
Ms. Hart views her move in April 2018 to lead one of the largest police departments in the country as a “natural transition because I worked very closely with the Suffolk County department when I was with the FBI on Long Island.”
“It has been a tremendous honor for me to work with these extraordinary people who work every day to keep Suffolk County safe,” said Ms. Hart, who was selected from among 100 applicants.
As commissioner, Ms. Hart, the mother of two teenagers, oversees operations to decimate MS-13, the vicious, transnational street gang responsible for more than 30 deaths on Long Island in recent years. She also leads efforts to end Suffolk County’s record-setting opioid crisis.
But back in 1992, after her arrival on St. John’s campus in Queens, NY, Ms. Hart quickly learned something about her classmates that would sustain her through the challenges of a career in law enforcement. “I definitely felt my fellow students were very collaborative, caring, and open,” she said. “I really did not experience the notion that people can have about law school being so competitive and cutthroat. We all had plenty of study groups together.”
“I was very lucky with the people in my class,” Ms. Hart added. “It was a great group, and we still keep in touch.”
Ms. Hart is also grateful for the internships she earned during her time at St. John’s, including a stint in the NYPD’s legal unit. She completed two summer internships in Washington, DC, with the Department of Justice, where she worked in the civil rights and the environmental justice sections. “It was amazing just to be in the mix with some of those federal cases, and I still remember the prosecutors who worked on them.”
As a law student, Ms. Hart discovered a valuable outlet for honing her analytical and critical thinking skills in a courtroom environment as a member of the St. John’s Mock Trial Team. The organization enables students to learn about the nation’s judicial system through participation in simulated trials based on hypothetical criminal cases.
“To get on your feet and argue your position in front of a panel of judges was very helpful in building my abilities and confidence as a lawyer,” she said.
St. John’s provided Ms. Hart with a “truly unique perspective on utilizing a law degree for a career in public service.”
“If you are open to public service, St. John’s is a great place to start preparing for your career.”
“The professors are not only academically qualified—they are absolute leaders in their field,” she said. “And St. John’s really does a terrific job of getting you ready for the bar exam!”
View St. John’s Alumni in Law Enforcement.