New Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton jumped into his new position even both before and after he was sworn in, helping deliver Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need.
Cureton – a 28-year law enforcement veteran and former president of the NAACP’s Bergen chapter -- joined members of his office’s PBA Local 134 and the Community Policing Unit in buying and distributing 1,000 or so turkeys with trimmings, including more than 700 to the Center for Food Action, over several days.
The county’s first-ever African-American sheriff, Cureton was sworn in on the steps of the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack on Tuesday.
“I stand here today humbled by this moment, aware of the great responsibility I now carry, mindful of your expectations and ready to serve as your Bergen County sheriff,” he told more than 200 family members, friends, elected and appointed officials, faith leader and many of the officers he will command.
“The job is not easy -- we can’t do it alone,” the former Englewood detective sergeant said. "But we can definitely do it with respect and honor.”
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who previously served as Bergen County prosecutor, swore Cureton in.
“You have done much already for the men and women of Bergen County law enforcement and to the citizens of this county through your work as a police officer and through your work with the Bergen County Chapter of the NAACP, among other things,” Grewal said. “Now you have the opportunity to do more – more for this department, more for this county and more for this state.”
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco called Cureton “a man of impeccable integrity and honesty,” someone who “has a compassion for people and…the law,” and a leader who “will be a sheriff for all.”
“As a career law enforcement officer, husband, father and person of faith, Anthony Cureton reflects what is best about the different communities of people who make their home in Bergen County,” Tedesco said.
Cureton replaces former Sheriff Michael Saudino, who resigned in disgrace on Sept. 21 following publication of secretly recorded racist and homophobic remarks that drew fire all the way up to the governor's office.
Because Saudino wasn't scheduled to run again until next fall, his resignation ignited furious political activity in the county -- with the names of well over a dozen would-be successors raised by party bosses and elected officials of various stripes and stations.
The county Democratic committee chose Cureton, in a decision confirmed by nearly 54% of voters in a five-man special election earlier this month – topping the Republican candidate, Hasbrouck Heights Mayor John “Jack” DeLorenzo III by more than 53,000 votes (171,928-119,924).
Three independent candidates split 29,119 votes, meaning Cureton outpolled them and DeLorenzo combined by nearly 23,000.
Cureton takes control of the county's largest law enforcement organization, with more than 600 employees and responsibility for a variety of services -- including operating the county jail, handling transports and security at the county courthouse and assisting the county's 68 municipal police departments with collecting and processing evidence through its Bureau of Criminal Identification.
The sheriff's office also has a bomb squad and crisis negotiators, serves various court orders and protects county roads, parks and critical infrastructure.
It also is responsible for housing detainees awaiting hearings on charges of illegally entering the country -- a hot-button issue that has affected county sheriffs statewide.
Cureton has experience with the office, having served as director of Inmate Social Services/Education and public relations officer.
His resume also includes being named 2012 NAACP New Jersey State Conference Outstanding President of the Year and the American Conference on Diversity’s 2006 Humanitarian of the Year.
Cureton also an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Ramapo College and Fairleigh Dickinson University and has been a guest lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.
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