YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – More than 100 top law enforcement officials vied for the job, but on Thursday one person was selected to lead a massive Long Island police department.
Suffolk County’s 2,500 sworn officers will be led by FBI veteran Geraldine Hart.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Hart’s gender was not relevant in the selection, but Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called it noteworthy – tapping the first woman to lead one of the largest police forces in the nation.
“Gerry Hart is fearless, whether you are talking about taking on organized crime figures or MS-13 gang members,” he said.
She’s also fearless in taking on daunting issues, like the deepening opioid crisis and a gang problem that’s claimed 25 young lives and landed Suffolk County in the national spotlight.
“We will use intelligence to go out and proactively identify gang members. And if they are a public threat, we will utilize the resources that we need to have them removed,” said Hart.
She heads Long Island’s FBI field office and its gang taskforce overseeing terrorism, cybercrime and public corruption.
Her selection underscores Suffolk County’s new focus on corruption-fighting and interagency partnerships, Gusoff reported. The county’s former police chief James Burke, convicted of corruption, had shut the FBI out.
Hart said she will continue the new culture started by her predecessor, who is now the district attorney.
“Integrity has been put at the forefront and infused into the working day-to-day operation of this department, and I continue to build on it,” she said.
Suffolk County’s police department is rebounding after decades of black eyes – charges of police brutality, coerced confessions, cover-ups.
Former Suffolk police officer Rob Trotta, now a legislator, will vote on Hart’s appointment.
“She is an honest, straightforward person. So she will be fine for the department” he said. “But there are bigger challenges of corruption, beyond the police commissioner.”
Hart, who has a law degree and teenage daughters, said she will spend the next month and a half meeting with community members and law enforcement before she takes over the reins of the department in April.