What to Know
- The New Jersey sheriff who was recorded making racist remarks about black people and the state’s Sikh attorney general has resigned
- Gov. Phil Murphy and other elected officials called for Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino’s resignation
- WNYC obtained a recording on which the sheriff can be heard making remarks about black people, as well as the state’s AG Gurbir Grewal
The New Jersey sheriff who was recorded making racist remarks about black people and the state’s Sikh attorney general has resigned.
The resignation of Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino is effective immediately, according to a release sent out at 3 p.m. Friday. Four undersheriffs -- George Buono, the executive undersheriff, Robert Colaneri, Brian Smith, Joseph Hornyak -- also submitted their resignations effective immediately.
Gov. Phil Murphy and other elected officials had called for Saudino’s resignation after WNYC obtained a recording on which the sheriff can be heard making remarks about black people, as well as the state’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, after Murphy’s inauguration on Jan. 16.
“He talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state… better criminal justice reform,” Saudino said of Murphy’s inauguration speech in the recording.
“Christ almighty, in other words let the blacks come in, do whatever the f--- they want, smoke their marijuana, do this, do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops,” he reportedly said.
Saudino went on to say that Murphy only appointed Grewal because of “the turban,” WNYC reported.
He also wondered aloud whether Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was gay "because she's never been married."
Saudino, who was in his third term as Bergen County sheriff, initially released a statement Thursday evening acknowledging that he'd made the "insensitive recorded remarks that were made public today."
"These remarks are not representative of the person that I am and they are in no way consistent with the manner in which I have conducted my life personally and as a law enforcement professional with over 46 years of service to the residents of Bergen County," Saudino said in that statement.
Murphy denounced Saudino's comments as "appalling," adding that "anyone using racist, homophobic and hateful language is unfit for public office."
Grewal and Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco also called for Saudino's resignation, as did Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) and the Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato.
The president of the local police union, Chris Weston, also called on Saudino to resign Friday morning and said the sheriff was "just sorry he got caught."
Despite calls for him to resign after the recording came to light, Saudino initially said he would be reaching out to community leaders to apologize and repair the damage to the "friendships" he has built with those communities.
"Going forward I will continue to treat everyone with the respect and dignity that is deserved by all and to be diligent in my duty to protect and defend the rights of all our residents," he originally said.
Pending the appointment of an interim sheriff by Murphy, Sheriff's Office Chief Kevin Pell will be the officer-in-charge of the department's operations. Bergen County Sheriff's Office Warden Steve Ahrendt will be the officer-in-charge of the Bergen County jail's operations, the statement from the sheriff's office said.
In a statement following Saudino's resignation, Murphy said in part: “With the resignation of Sheriff Saudino, we can now begin the process of restoring faith in the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office after so much of it was so quickly eroded. And, we can begin the process of ensuring that the bigoted beliefs displayed by the former Sheriff are not given shelter in any corner of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office – now or in the future."
“I fully intend to appoint an interim sheriff who can rebuild the public’s trust, Murphy's statement continued.
Grewal shared similar sentiments, saying that Saudino's resignation "is an important first step in repairing the relationship between the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and the diverse communities it serves."
Grewal also said that "the fact that a top official could make racist comments about the African-American community – and that no one in the room would challenge or correct him – raises serious concerns."
However, Grewal added: "At the same time, we cannot allow the actions of a few officials to taint the entire law enforcement community. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers in Bergen County and across New Jersey are honorable public servants who care deeply about the work they do and the way they do it."