ELIZABETH — The state attorney general has taken over the Union County Prosecutor's Office as well as the Police Department in the state's fourth largest city after the civilian police director was accused of using bigoted slurs to describe women and minorities who worked for the city.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Friday called on Police Director James Cosgrove to resign, saying that he has "violated" the community's trust "and, in doing so, undermined confidence in our system of justice."

"Here in New Jersey, we have worked hard to strengthen trust between police and the communities we serve, and we have no patience for those who fail to recognize that our ultimate responsibility is to the laws of this State and the people of New Jersey," Grewal said. "While I have great faith in the men and women who make up the Elizabeth Police Department, it is apparent that their director has fallen short."

Grewal also removed Acting Union County Prosecutor Michael Monahan and appointed First Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Davenport to take his place in an acting capacity, tasking her to oversee the city's police department. Monahan was reassigned to his previous position in Grewal's office.

Grewal also appointed his special assistant, Joseph Walsh, as counsel to Davenport, tasking him with auditing the Elizabeth Police Department's workplace culture, including its hiring and promotional practices, as well as ensuring that all police officials are appropriately trained on matters of implicit bias and sexual harassment.

The action comes days after Monahan's office corroborated complaints against Cosgrove and also announced that prosecutors were taking over the city's internal affairs unit. The city said the internal affairs takeover was a result of a complaint against the city's police chief, not because of Cosgrove.

It is not clear why Mayor Christian Bollwage has not fired Cosgrove or what his reaction is to the prosecutor's investigation or the attorney general's takeover. A city spokeswoman did not return a request for comment Friday afternoon. The city and the county are dominated by Democrats.

The complaints against Cosgrove stem from litigation being handled by attorney Joshua McMahon, a former assistant prosecutor in Union County. McMahon said about 20 city employees spoke to prosecutors regarding Cosgrove's use of the "N word" and the "C word."

Prosecutors are appointed by governors for terms of five years after confirmation by the state Senate but Union County has been without a permanent prosecutor for six years. Since 2013, the county has had four acting prosecutors.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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