Elizabeth police director resigns after state takeover of ‘biased’ department
ELIZABETH — Four days after the state Attorney General's Office took over the city's police department following credible accusations that the police director had used bigoted language, the mayor on Tuesday announced the resignation of the civilian leader.
Police Director James Cosgrove, a retired Newark cop who is getting a $74,000 pension in addition to his $140,000 city salary, will step down this week. Police Chief John Brennan also was suspended following a cop's whistleblower complaint, leaving police in the state's fourth largest city without either a permanent civilian or uniformed leader.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Friday called on Cosgrove to resign after the Union County Prosecutor's Office corroborated complaints that he had used sexist and racist language to describe city employees. Prosecutors never announced that they had corroborated the accusations. Instead, an attorney for officers suing the city revealed that news to the media.
Apparently unhappy with the way Acting Union County Prosecutor Michael Monahan handled the case, Grewal booted the acting prosecutor and appointed First Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Davenport to temporarily take over the Prosecutor's Office as well as the police department.
Grewal also appointed someone from his office to audit the Elizabeth Police Department's workplace culture and make sure police officials are trained on implicit bias and sexual harassment.
Mayor Christian Bollwage avoided comment for four days. On Tuesday, the Democrat said he had met with Grewal and pledged "our cooperation in ensuring the Police Department is sensitive to the needs of our residents.”
Bollwage also said that he has asked the chief "to step aside during this investigation."
The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday criticized city leadership for presiding over "decades of known bias in its police brass."
“New Jerseyans certainly feel relief that Police Director James Cosgrove has stepped down, but it never should have required the Attorney General’s intervention or calls from advocates for Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage to take action," ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha said.
"As soon as the Union County Prosecutor found allegations of racist and sexist slurs credible, Mayor Bollwage should have been compelled to take immediate steps to meet the seriousness of the situation. Instead, we saw a mayor who chose to evade accountability by blocking journalists on social media when asked about the controversy surrounding his police director, antithetical to transparency and the Constitution."
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.