Bergen County sheriff Michael Saudino resigns after racist comments caught on tape

NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey county sheriff has resigned after a recording surfaced in which he made disparaging comments about blacks and the state's first Sikh attorney general.

Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino submitted his resignation on Friday, effective immediately.

WNYC radio obtained the tape from a person who was present during the meeting between Saudino and subordinates. It was recorded on the day of Gov. Phil Murphy's inauguration in January.

On it, Saudino is heard saying Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was appointed because of "the turban." He also said Murphy's policies would allow blacks to "come in, do whatever the [expletive] they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that."

In a statement, Murphy called the comments "appalling" and said if the voice on the recording is Saudino's he should resign.

Saudino issued an apology, but said he would not resign.

"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," he said. "In an effort to repair the damage to the friendships that I have built with these communities I have reached out directly to several respected leaders in the communities I have offended and I have personally offered my apologizes and I have asked for their forgiveness and for their communities’ forgiveness"

Grewal had also called for Saudino's resignation.

“I have now listened to the recording obtained by WNYC. If that is in fact Sheriff Saudino's voice, then he should resign immediately," he said. "I’ve got thick skin and I've been called far worse. But the comments about the African-American community are wrong, racist, and hurtful. The comments about our lieutenant governor are inappropriate and homophobic.  New Jersey and Bergen County deserve better."

Brian Downey, president of the Gay Officer Action League, said his group has been questioning the sheriff's behavior for some time.

"If this is how the cops are treating one another and it's not being checked, how are you treating the public," asked Downey.

Sheriff's Office Chief Kevin Pell will be the officer-in-charge of the sheriffs department following Saudino's resignation.

“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," Gov. Murphy said in a statement.

"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."

“He’s a fantastic father, he’s a fantastic father in law... and he’s an amazing grandfather," Saudino's son told PIX11 News. "That’s all I have to say.”

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