New Jersey Sheriff Michael Saudino Apologizes For Racist Comments, But Refuses To Resign

New Jersey Sheriff Michael Saudino is facing statewide calls to resign after being caught on tape making racist remarks about black people, but the sheriff is refusing to give in to the pressure.

The Democrat apologized on Thursday after WNYC published audio of the Bergen County Sheriff making disparaging remarks about black people in January, just after the inauguration of Gov. Phil Murphy.

In the audio, which was reportedly recorded in a county building, Saudino was heard complaining about criminal justice reforms including efforts to decriminalize marijuana.

"He talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state...better criminal justice reform," he said in the audio. "Christ almighty, in other words let the blacks come in, do whatever the f**k they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don't worry about it. You know, we'll tie the hands of cops."

The remarks drew an immediate backlash both in Bergen County and statewide, with many saying Saudino is not fit to lead a police force while sharing views like the ones heard in the recording.

Saudino released a statement on Thursday night saying that the remarks are "not representative of the person I am" and do not reflect how he has conducted himself professionally in his 46 years in law enforcement. He also defended his record in promoting diversity.

"During my time as the Bergen County Sheriff I have worked hard to successfully increase the diversity of the membership in the Bergen County Sheriff's Department," he said in the statement, via the New York Post. "This increased diversity has been accomplished while working hand-in-hand with the members and leadership of our minority communities in Bergen County."

Saudino added that since the release of the audio, he has reached out to leaders in the community and offered personal apologies.

But Saudino has said he intends to stay in the job, despite a growing number of calls that he resign. Gov. Murphy has called on him to leave the Bergen County sheriff post, as has Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who was also targeted in the recording. Saudino implied that Grewal, a Sikh, was only appointed to his position because of "the turban."

As WNYC noted, Michael Saudino leads the largest law enforcement agency in New Jersey's most populous county. There are close to 600 employees in the department, which oversees a number of functions including road patrols, helping smaller municipalities with law enforcement, and overseeing county jails.