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Michael Hughes ’90

Michael Hughes ’90, director of INTERPOL Washington, circles the globe, helping to ensure that 195 unique countries coordinate their resources to fight transnational crime and to implement crucial humanitarian efforts. As head of the United States National Central Bureau and a member of INTERPOL’s 13-member executive committee, he is helping to bring together diverse voices with the shared goal of making the world safe for all.

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Micheal Hughes

It is easy for most of us to go through life without thinking too much about international
crime fighting – unless, of course, we are catching up on world news or watching the
latest action flick. But for Michael Hughes ’90, transnational criminal intelligence is all in
a day’s work.

Hughes is director of INTERPOL Washington, the U.S. National Central Bureau
(USNCB), which is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. is one of
195-member countries in the international INTERPOL organization, which is based in
Lyon, France. He will try to tell you that his career isn’t what it might seem from the
movies, before noting that he helps to coordinate criminal intelligence among
INTERPOL’s 195 countries, sometimes traveling worldwide. And he has Top
Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearance.

“INTERPOL, the organization, does not have any official policing powers. Its
investigative authority is derived from its 195 member country National Central Bureaus
and law enforcement agencies. The USNCB is responsible for coordinating criminal
information exchange between our more than 18,000 domestic U.S. law enforcement
agencies and our international counterparts around the globe,” he explains, noting that
the organization was officially established in 1923. “We are a communication platform
for criminal investigative information for all transnational crimes including human
trafficking, cybercrime, terrorism and art theft, as well as for humanitarian efforts. We
enable countries to work together to keep the world safe.”

From Hughes’ perspective, his work is as much about diplomacy as it is about law
enforcement. “It is crucial that we take the time to research other cultures and to
understand their priorities,” he says. “We need to be on top of developments
everywhere, and to be sensitive to history as well as to how societies are changing over

International diplomacy was not top of mind for Hughes when he was preparing for
college, however. “I played football for Wallington High School and wanted to continue
playing,” he says. “Montclair offered me a spot on their junior varsity team. I also liked
the fact that I could commute to campus. It was the right fit for me.”

He enjoyed his time as part of the Montclair football team, but stepped away from the
program to work full-time at a local pharmacy while completing his degree in Political
Science with a minor in Criminal Justice, a nod to his grandfather’s career in law

Hughes sat for the LSATs with the idea that he would go to law school but at the last
minute he pivoted, submitting applications to the New Jersey State Police and the U.S.
Marshals Service. He chose the federal program. “I felt I needed a more wide-ranging
scope of possibilities and the Marshals offered that,” he says.

Early assignments involved working with the FBI on a violent crimes task force in the
District of New Jersey and also as an Inspector in the Witness Security Program. He
also received a fellowship through Georgetown University and served for a couple of
years as a legislative fellow in the United States Senate, working for New Jersey
Senator Frank Lautenberg. When he returned to the Marshals, he climbed the agency’s
ladder quickly. By 2011, he was appointed United States Marshal by the President of
the United States, with the consent of the U.S. Senate.

He joined INTERPOL Washington in 2018, and in 2021 was named the agency’s
director. That year, he was elected by INTERPOL’s 195-member-country General
Assembly to serve on the organization’s 13-member executive committee.
“As a delegate for the Americas to the Committee, I work to ensure that every member
country’s voice is being heard,” he says. “Diplomacy and appreciation for diversity are

The complex interactions of 195 unique countries often have Hughes thinking back to
his college days. “Montclair provided my first experiences with a diverse community,
and with diversity of thought,” he says. “I formed relationships with classmates from
different backgrounds, and my professors challenged me to think in different ways. I
developed my ability to consider new ideas and perspectives.”

He points to an elective karate class as one example. “I took the class to stay active
after leaving the football team,” he recalls. “It opened up a world for me, teaching
discipline and helping me to become pragmatic in my thought processes. I continued
studying and practicing karate for decades, and even competed in the sport.”
Hughes focuses on discipline and pragmatism when discussing his career, but his
volunteer activity reveals a deeply held passion for fighting crime. His memberships
include the National Advisory Board of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, the INTERPOL Advisory Group on Financial Matters, ASIS International,

the District of Columbia Law Enforcement Executive Task Force, the National Sheriff’s
Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Liaison
Officers Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the
Fraternal Order of Police.

Despite his international stature and his job’s globe-circling requirements, Hughes
keeps up with Montclair news. “Reading about Montclair makes me smile,” he says. “I
am aware of all of the new construction and programs, and I enjoy learning about the
priorities of the new president.”

He encourages today’s students with a positive and pragmatic perspective: “The world
is always full of change. Change is inevitable, and it is something we all have to deal
with, so do so in a positive way. Remember that one person can make a difference, so
go for it!”