Holly Sims

Thomas Constantine, MA '77

Public Service Professor
Law Enforcement
Department of Public Administration & Policy

423 State Street | 518-426-5949


About Professor Constantine

A Buffalo native of Irish descent, Constantine says that when he began his career in 1960, “law enforcement was a chance for people of my generation, usually people of ethnic groups—Irish, Italian, Polish—who grew up in city neighborhoods and who had not gone to college, to get into an occupation with a challenging environment that had a great deal of flexibility and autonomy. We were looking for excitement and adventure.”

Constantine has found plenty of both during a career spanning nearly four decades. From his years as a deputy through his service with the New York State Police and his current post with the DEA, he’s seen countless crimes—but perhaps none so insidious, he notes, as those that are drug-related.

Constantine followed the traditional “blue-collar entry” into law enforcement, going to the Erie County Sheriff’s Department from a job at a radiator manufacturing plant in Buffalo. In 1962, he joined the New York State Police as a uniform trooper. During his 34-year career with the state police, he served in every uniformed and investigative capacity, rising to the rank of superintendent in 1986.

After earning his undergraduate degree in 1970 from the State University College in Buffalo, Constantine had the opportunity to enter the master’s program at Albany’s School of Criminal Justice. Today, he credits the lessons he learned at Albany with “helping me tremendously in my career. The professors and the students were very, very bright. The faculty required rigorous research and were meticulous in their requirement that arguments be supported by facts.” When the master’s fellowship was completed, Constantine enrolled in another 30 hours of academic work to pursue a PhD, but continued promotions, he says, “made it impossible” for him to complete the dissertation.

His favorite professor was the late Donald Newman, who was also a dean of the School. “He taught about the administration of justice. Professor Newman had great understanding and almost a blue-collar ethic himself. He was able to relate to us on a police officer’s level,” Constantine recalls.

That same ability to relate to others has served Constantine himself well, particularly at the DEA. He did not seek the administrator’s position, however. He had planned to retire from the state police in 1998 after 12 years as superintendent, but when the U.S. Justice Department called in 1994 and asked him to interview for the DEA’s top job, he didn’t hesitate.

Constantine relishes doing what he calls “God’s work.” “The [drug] issue is one of the most serious social challenges facing our country today,” he asserts. “It impacts on health, and on domestic violence and other crimes of violence. In fact, 70 percent of all felons arrested in this country for crimes of violence are under the influence of illicit drugs at the time they’re arrested.”

Constantine firmly believes that the solution to the drug problem rests with the family. “And the ultimate answer is prevention—encouraging, educating, and persuading young people not to use drugs.”