TRENTON - Sheriff 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.
Under state law, the Governor has the power to fill the vacancy left by the Sheriff’s resignation. That appointment will be subject to the advice and consent of the state senate. In the interim, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office will oversee day-to-day management of the Sheriff’s Office, with Chief Kevin Pell serving as the officer-in-charge of the department’s operations.
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.
Two weeks ago, the Attorney General’s Office launched the Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) 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, and Tom Eicher, the new OPIA Director, will work with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to examine whether there are deeper issues that warrant a wider investigation.
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. Their good work – performed day-in, day-out – is ultimately what will help repair the damage brought about by Sheriff Saudino’s highly inappropriate comments.
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