Bergen sheriff candidate once compared Paterson’s “jungles” to “lily-white” Saddle Brook


Earlier this year, the office of then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal laid charges against Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler, alleging he used publicly funded police escorts to his personal funeral home business. | AP Photo / Julio Cortez

Suspended Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler, who is running for Bergen County Sheriff, once told members of his hometown council that hired police officers had been poached in “the jungles of Paterson or of Trenton. [or] Newark “should acclimatize to the” white lily “city.

Kugler made the remarks in 2013 while explaining to city council members the process of hiring new members into the force, such as transferring them from other municipalities, including urban centers across the state.

“You just have to acclimatize to Saddle Brook. You can take them in the jungles of Paterson or Trenton [or] Newark, and they come to Saddle Brook and it’s probably a little easier, ”Kugler told the board. “But at the same time, we have to tame them a bit. “

Listen to Kugler’s commentary here.

POLITICO obtained a recording of Kugler’s comments – which had not previously been reported – about three months after winning the Republican nomination for sheriff to take on Democratic incumbent Anthony Cureton, a former black Englewood cop who took over to a Bergen County sheriff forced to resign in 2018 over taped racist remarks.

Minutes of Saddle Brook board meetings prior to 2015 are not available on its website.

Kugler won the GOP primary with nearly 82% of the vote despite state corruption charges alleging he used publicly funded police escorts for his personal funeral home business. He was suspended from his duties as chief while the case was pending and claimed his innocence. The Bergen County District Attorney‘s Office took over the department.

Kugler ran for the sheriff in 2018 as a freelance. He tried to run as a Democrat but lost a party convention. In that election, candidates were competing to replace former Sheriff Michael Saudino, a Republican-turned-Democrat who resigned after the release of an audio recording of him making racist remarks against blacks and claiming that the attorney general of At the time, Gurbir Grewal, a Sikh, was named “because of the turban”.

Kugler’s remarks to council in 2013 were made in the context of a consent decree signed by Saddle Brook in 2000 after the NAACP successfully sued the township and several other municipalities over their hiring practices. A judge had ruled that Saddle Brook, who in the 2020 census is 69% non-Hispanic white and has a median household income of nearly $ 107,000, could no longer favor residents over non-residents. in hiring municipal employees.

“We fought a bit, but we lost,” Kugler told the council, according to the recording of his comments. “And the result is that we agreed to a radius of 25 miles [to recruit candidates] that gives you our counties. So it’s Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Hudson.

Kugler did not return phone calls to his funeral home.

Bergen County GOP Chairman Jack Zisa defended Kugler. He said that while he didn’t want to go into the details of Kugler’s remarks without hearing all his words to the board, he said he had never heard of any complaints about Kugler.

“This guy has been here for a long time. He was part of the police department and he was the chief for a considerable time, ”Zisa said. “He’s been through a number of different administrations, both Republican and Democratic. To my knowledge, I am not aware of any complaints against him.

Junius Carter, chairman of the Bergen County NAACP, said Kugler’s comments were racist.

“There is no justification for what he said then,” said Carter, who worked with Cureton at the NAACP and succeeded him as president after Cureton was elected sheriff. “He showed us who he is, so why would we think any differently?

Carter said the fact that the remarks were made in 2013 doesn’t make them irrelevant.

“It was eight years ago,” he says. “If this was something that maybe said in high school or something like that?” But he was an adult in an official capacity. You are therefore responsible.

Kugler’s candidacy was already a potential liability for Republicans, who controlled most of Bergen County government as late as 2013, but are now excluded from all county offices.

Republicans are putting forward two other controversial candidates in Bergen County:

–Edward Durfee, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia who had many members involved in the Jan.6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol, is running for assembly in the 37th District.

– Bridget Anne Kelly, former assistant to former Governor Chris Christie, who wrote the infamous ‘Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee’ email that led to the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal that helped undermine the Christie’s presidential ambition, is running as county clerk.

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