CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Jeffrey Sutherland, Cape May County’s new prosecutor, was sworn in Dec. 21 in front of more than 100 supporters, friends and family by Judge Mark Sandson in the Historic Cape May County Courthouse.
Sandson, a drug court judge, is a friend, Sutherland said, and that’s why the new prosecutor asked him to conduct the swearing-in ceremony.
“I chose Judge Sandson because we’re close. I’ve worked with him on a number of cases, and I wanted the ceremony to be personal,” Sutherland said.
That choice may be indicative of the direction Sutherland will take his office.
For him, serving the county is personal, and while he will pursue the guilty, it is equally important to work on prevention and education to keep people out of jail, he said.
Sutherland praised the work and advice of former Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor and said he doesn’t plan to make any changes in the leadership of the Prosecutor’s Office. He also had positive things to say about Rob Johnson, who was appointed acting prosecutor after Taylor’s retirement in September, and Paul Skill, chief of detectives.
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“The programs we have in place are moving in the right direction,” Sutherland said, referring to the county’s drive to stem the opioid crises. “We must address an addiction before it moves into criminal court.”
Sutherland said that he and the officers would be more visible in the community, and urged families and friends who know people with drug problems to contact law enforcement for intervention.
“It doesn’t have to end in a jail cell,” he said.
At the swearing-in, Sutherland paraphrased “Berger v. United States,” a Supreme Court case, saying “guilt does not escape, nor innocence suffer.” He said that while it is important to prosecute the guilty, it is also important that his office recognize the innocent, and keep them above the fray.
He said that the last few years have been tough on law enforcement around the country, and that with the current opioid crises, a cop’s job has transformed to more than law enforcement, adding medic and counselor to an officer’s tasks.
Family is important to Sutherland. Attending the ceremony were his mother, Nora Pascht; stepfather, Ed Pascht; father, John Sutherland; uncle, Norman Sutherland; wife, Yolanda Sutherland; daughter, Lauren Sutherland; son Charlie Nusbaum; and cousin Diana Ojeda.
“Yolanda is the heart and rock of the family, and I wouldn’t be here without them,” he said.
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More than that, though, was what Sutherland referred to as his work families: the men and women from his law office in Linwood; as well as about 50 detectives and assistant prosecutors, new to the family with his appointment.
Sutherland credited both his blood relations and his work families with making it possible for him to be appointed as the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Sutherland was named the chair of the Cape May County Democratic Party last year.
After Taylor retired, Sutherland was recommended to Christie under a longstanding policy known as senatorial courtesy.