New Jersey’s Bergen County Sheriff, four undersheriffs resign after uproar over racist remarks

Michael Saudino

NEW Jersey’s Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino and four undersheriffs resigned on September 21 following an outcry after radio station WNYC posted audio clips of the sheriff’s remarks from a January discussion following Governor Phil Murphy’s inauguration. In the public recording Saudino was heard making racist remarks about the black community and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, as well as homophobic remarks about New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver.
In the recording that was made public on September 20, Saudino is heard saying: “Let the blacks come in, do whatever the &*^% they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don’t worry about it.”
Saudino also complained that Grewal was appointed to his position solely because of his turban.

New Jersey’s Attorney General Grubir S. Grewal
Official photo

While Saudino apologized on September 20, the mounting public pressure — including from the Sikh Coalition empowering an overwhelming community response — led to his resignation on September 21.

Within hours of the recording becoming public, the Sikh Coalition issued a press statement demanding that Saudino resign, and by the weekend the Sikh Coalition had mobilized community members to send over 1,700 emails to the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office demanding his resignation.

“We are grateful that the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office can start rebuilding trust within the communities and repair the relationships that Michael Saudino has tarnished,” said Sikh Coalition Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, Sim J. Singh. “We still call upon the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office to conduct mandatory trainings for all of its officers on anti-bias and cultural awareness for the communities affected.”

The Sikh Coalition is formally submitting requests to the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office demanding that the training is conducted with the Sikh Coalition, as well as prominent black and LGBTQ organizations.

“This sort of bigotry is unacceptable and we must hold public officials accountable for the tone they set,” said Singh. “We thank everybody who took swift action to demand Sheriff Saudino’s resignation as we continue our never ending efforts to end bias, bigotry and discrimination.”

CNN reported that Grewal called the resignation “an important first step in repairing the relationship between the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and the diverse communities it serves.”

He added: “But our work does not stop there. 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.”
Grewal said the attorney general’s office started the Office of Public Integrity & Accountability “to help investigate violations of the public trust and to strengthen the public’s confidence in our political and criminal justice institutions. OPIA was designed precisely for incidents like this.”
He said the agency’s director and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office will see “whether there are deeper issues that warrant a wider investigation,” reported CNN.