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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

NJ police chief steps down after allegedly making racist comments

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A New Jersey police chief has stepped down after allegedly making derogatory and racist comments about an Asian-American former county prosecutor and the state’s first Sikh attorney general. 

An undated audio surfaced in which several people can be heard talking. One person describes Attorney General Gurbir Grewal as ‘that f****** guy with the turban,’ and adds: ‘I want to pull him like a top.’

The person on the recording is alleged to be Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo who goes on to refer to former Union County Prosecutor Grace Park as being ‘pretty hot’ adding, ‘she got wide ones,’ before then describing her as ‘Chinese.’

Park is a member of the Council of Korean Americans.   

Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo has stepped down over accusations that he made racist and sexist comments toward county and state officials which were all recorded on tape

Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo has stepped down over accusations that he made racist and sexist comments toward county and state officials which were all recorded on tape

The recording surfaced on YouTube last week although it is not clear where or when the comments were allegedly made. 

The Union County prosecutor’s office announced that Chief Trigo had notified the town’s mayor and council Friday night that he would step down effective Monday.

Acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo said in a statement Monday that her office will temporarily oversee the leaderless department.  

Ruotolo said that an investigation into the recording had been launched and suggested Trigo would need to ‘immediately step down’ or face disciplinary action to remove him from office, if the recording turns out to be authentic. 

Former Union County Prosecutor Grace Park

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal

The recording allegedly contains insults aimed at former Union County Prosecutor Grace Park, left, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, right

Captain Kevin Grimmer along with detective Nicholas Falcicchio from the prosecutor’s office are to assume control of day-to-day operations of the police force in Fanwood, a township of about 7,000 people, 10 miles southwest of Newark.  

The search for a new chief has already begun. 

On Monday, an attorney representing Trigo disputed Ruotolo’s version of events.

‘Chief Trigo did not resign or quit,’ Joshua McMahon wrote. ‘Any assertion to the contrary is categorically and demonstrably false. 

‘Chief Trigo had previously begun the process to retire on September 1, 2020 and, until that time, elected to take leave to handle a family-related health issue.’ 

In a statement to NBC, McMahon said that the recordings had ‘manipulated and spliced,’ although he would not comment on whether the voice heard on the tape was that of Trigo’s. 

‘Chief Trigo, the first Spanish police Chief in Fanwood’s history, denies making any inappropriate comments. These altered recordings have unquestionably been manipulated and spliced together by persons upset with the reform and progress the Fanwood Police Department has made under Chief Trigo’s leadership, including the Chief personally hiring and promoting more minorities than any Chief in Fanwood’s history,’ McMahon said in a statement.

McMahon said Trigo ‘remains committed to the community and bringing people together, as he has done for nearly three decades.’   

Attorney General Grewal condemned the comments in a statement last week.

He suggested that if the comments had been made in front of other law enforcement officials then they should have spoken up and called out the ‘blatant misogyny and racism’ that was on display. 

‘Because when an officer behaves in this manner, it tarnishes the reputation and good work of the vast majority of officers who know that this conduct has no place in law enforcement or in our society,’ Grewal said.

‘If the comments in the recording were, in fact, made by Chief Trigo, this is yet one more reason why we need to continue building a culture of accountability in policing in New Jersey,’ he wrote.  

‘Clearly, others were in the room when these comments were purportedly made by a law enforcement executive, and they did nothing.’ 

The mayor of Fanwood, Colleen Mahr, has said she intends to fully cooperate with the investigation.

‘I have zero tolerance for any form of racism or discrimination and take these allegations and this tape very seriously,’ Mahr told NJ.com. 

‘It is my expectation that a full investigation will be conducted and that we will cooperate with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.’

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