By Sam Wood

The sheriff of Bergen County and four of his senior officers resigned Friday, one day after a recording surfaced of the sheriff making virulently racist comments to his staff.

Sheriff Michael Saudino could be heard bad-mouthing African Americans, the state's Sikh Attorney General, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver in comments recorded in January. The recording, which documented Saudino grousing about Gov. Murphy's inauguration speech, was released Thursday by WNYC.

"[Murphy] talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state, better criminal justice reform," Saudino said to his staff. "Christ almighty, in other words, let the blacks come in, do whatever the f-- they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that and don't worry about it. You know, we'll tie the hands of cops."

Gov. Murphy and state AG Gubir Grewal had demanded Saudino's resignation after the recording went public. The sheriff's department made the announcement on Facebook.

Late Friday, Murphy and Grewal issued statements.

Said Murphy: "[W]e can now begin the process of restoring faith in the Bergen County Sheriff's Office after so much of it was so quickly eroded,. And, we can begin the process of ensuring that the bigoted beliefs displayed by the former Sheriff are not given shelter in any corner of the Bergen County Sheriff's Office -- now or in the future."

Said Grewal: "The fact that a top official could make racist comments about the African-American community -- and that no one in the room would challenge or correct him -- raises serious concerns."

Grewal said that the new Office of Public Integrity and Accountability will examine the incident to see "whether there are deeper issues that warrant a wider investigation."

Executive Undersheriff George Buono and three undersheriffs also resigned. A statement released by the department did not give a reason for their decisions.

Murphy has the power to appoint an interim sheriff. Until he does, the county prosecutor's office will oversee day-to-day management of the department.

(c)2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer