A Jewish former police officer claimed in a lawsuit that he was illegally fired because of his religion, NJ.com reported last week.
Bergen County, New Jersey police officer Gary Bendit was dismissed from his job in 2017 along with 26 others by Sheriff Michael Saudino after the merger of the county’s police department and sheriff’s office. But Bendit argues that his seniority and high performance should have protected him from the layoff, and pointed to Saudino’s discriminatory history as evidence.
The former officer claims that after Saudino was elected in 2010, Bendit offered to introduce him to local Jewish organizations, to which Saudino allegedly retorted, “I don’t need any votes from them.”
Saudino was forced to resign in 2018 when recordings of his racist and homophobic language were released by radio station WNYC. In these tapes, Saudino stated that state attorney general Gurbir Grewal, who is Sikh, acquired his position “because of the turban.” He also asserted that legislation to legalize marijuana would “let the blacks come in, do whatever the [expletive] they want,” and asked whether lieutenant governor Sheila Oliver was gay because she was unmarried.
Following the release of the recordings, 24 current and former officers sued Saudino for civil rights violations. Andrew Kara, one of these officers, accused Saudino of fostering an environment of homophobic verbal abuse.
Saudino, who said he didn’t even know Bendit wasa Jewish, claimed the lawsuit is “nonsense” and that Bendit is “just jumping on the bandwagon, like I’m anti-everything in the world.”
Bergen County has had to deal with several anti-Semitic incidents within taxpayer-funded public departments this year. A local police officer was suspended for dressing up as an Orthodox Jew for a party, and a public high school was repeatedly vandalized with swastikas.