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Sunday, August 9, 2020

NJ police chief steps down after calling the nation’s first Sikh state attorney general

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A New Jersey police chief has stepped down amid controversy over allegedly derogatory and racist comments about an Asian-American former county prosecutor and New Jersey’s first Sikh attorney general that were all allegedly recorded on tape.

A recording surfaced on YouTube last week in which Trigo allegedly made comments about former Union County Prosecutor Grace Park and current state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. 

The Union County prosecutor’s office announced that Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo 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 department.  

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

It’s not known when the alleged audio was recorded however several people can be heard talking in the recording with one person heard describing Grewal as ‘that f****** guy with the turban … I want to pull him like a top.’

He also allegedly refers to Prosecutor Park as being ‘pretty hot’ and adding, ‘she got wide ones,’ and allegedly calls her ‘Chinese.’

Park is a member of the Council of Korean Americans.  

Ruotolo said that an investigation into the recording had been launched and suggested Trigo needed to ‘immediately step down’ or that disciplinary action be initiated 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.’  

Trigo is accused of saying former acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park,  the first Asian-American leader of the Union County Prosecutor's Office was 'pretty hot' and that she has 'wide ones'

Trigo is accused of saying former acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park,  the first Asian-American leader of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office was ‘pretty hot’ and that she has ‘wide ones’

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.

Trigo was also accused of referring to NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the first Sikh state attorney general in the U.S. as that 'that f****** guy with the turban', saying, 'I wanna pull him like a top.'

Trigo was also accused of referring to NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the first Sikh state attorney general in the U.S. as that ‘that f****** guy with the turban’, saying, ‘I wanna pull him like a top.’

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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