By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff
When Port Authority Police Officer Victoria Berardi was a young girl, she had far different aspirations than most other children her age. Many kids envision becoming ballerinas or baseball stars. Berardi dreamed of being on a SWAT team.
Those dreams have now come true. Berardi recently graduated from the New York Police Department Service Specialized Training School, paving the way for her appointment as the only woman currently serving on the Port Authority’s Police Emergency Service (PAPD ESU) team. She’s just the second woman to earn a spot with the elite Port Authority unit.
“Being the only woman on the team is something that I’m accustomed to,” said Berardi. “At a young age I always participated in childhood sports with boys. Because of this, I’ve never thought much about being the only female.”
For seven months, Berardi received high-level training in how to handle active shooters, terrorist attacks, hostage situations, hazardous material, emotionally distressed people and vehicle extrications. Along with the rest of the PAPD ESU team, she is now tactically ready to handle incidents that present significant risks to others.
“Officer Berardi was handpicked to be a part of the agency’s Counterterrorism Unit because she served as a role model for other police officers,” said Assistant Chief Steve Rotolo, head of the Port Authority Police Department Counterterrorism Unit. “Her progression to the department’s most elite unit was a natural fit.”
Berardi comes from a tight-knit family, with three older brothers and an older sister. Her father and eldest brother worked in the U.S. Army and her mother was a nurse, so it was natural that Berardi chose a career path where she could be of service to people.
As she got older, Berardi’s parents instilled in her that she could achieve whatever she wanted, and that her gender didn’t matter. She obtained a degree in Psychology from Bloomfield College and became an Alzheimer’s Program Director at the Genesis HealthCare Facility, before getting an opportunity to begin a career in law enforcement as a New Jersey State Corrections Officer.
In 2013, the PAPD made the call Berardi had been hoping to receive for years. For the next five years, she worked in different PAPD commands before deciding to apply to the department’s Counterterrorism Unit, where she got to work with her brother, John. After a year of training, she began the process of joining the PAPD ESU team.
Aside from her police accomplishments, Berardi enjoys surfing (although she says she’s not very good at it), with her wife, who serves as a trooper with the New Jersey State Police.
“I consider myself to be extremely lucky in being able to accomplish this dream and I hope to continue to enhance my training and education to be the best I could be in the field,” she said.