For Immediate Release

Press Contact: Mark Reading-Smith
Senior Media & Communications Director, the Sikh Coalition
Mark@sikhcoalition.org, (202) 380-8489

UPDATE: September 21, 2018 (Bergen County, NJ) - After mounting criticism, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino resigned today. Saudino made racist, disparaging comments about the African-American community and New Jersey’s Sikh Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, while also making a homophobic remark about New Jersey Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Oliver.

"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."

NJ Sheriff Recording Calls For Resignation, Training From Sikh Community

September 20, 2018 (Bergen County, NJ) - Today, WNYC reported that Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino made racist, disparaging comments about the African-American community and New Jersey’s Sikh Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, while also making a homophobic remark about New Jersey Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Oliver.

In the available audio, Sheriff Saudino says: “… let the blacks come in, do whatever the fuck they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don't worry about it. You know, we'll tie the hands of cops...” Sheriff Saudino also inquires about Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver: "Is she gay? Because she's never been married." He also says that Gov. Murphy appointed AG Grewal because of “the turban.”

Observant Sikhs wear turbans and maintain unshorn hair as a visible commitment to justice, dignity and equality for all people. However, these visible markers of religious identity often make Sikhs a target for harassment, discrimination and bias-motivated violence.

“We call for Sheriff Saudino to immediately apologize and resign from his position,” said Sikh Coalition Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, Sim J. Singh. “Tone at the top matters and we must hold our public officials accountable for this despicable bigotry. Law enforcement needs to provide trainings in order to restore trust and demonstrate that hate will not be tolerated.”

The Sikh Coalition calls for cultural awareness and anti-bias trainings for all staff employed by the Bergen County Sheriff's Office on behalf of the communities impacted by Sheriff Saudino's remarks.

Sadly, the remarks by Sheriff Saudino joins the line of racist moments that AG Grewal has experienced throughout his life. In July 2018, New Jersey radio hosts were in the national spotlight when they made disrespectful remarks about the Attorney General. Since becoming the first Sikh state Attorney General in the United States, AG Grewal is regularly subjected to death threats.

“I have now listened to the recording obtained by WNYC. If that is in fact Sheriff Saudino’s voice, then he should resign immediately,” said AG Grewal. “I have 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.”

The Sikh Coalition is the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, combating bias and creating lasting impact in the courtroom, classroom, community, and halls of Congress. For more information, including interviews with senior leaders at the Sikh Coalition and other media requests, please contact Mark Reading-Smith.