TRENTON — The state Senate confirmed attorney Jeffrey Sutherland, of Ocean City, to be Cape May County’s prosecutor Thursday.
Sutherland was chairman of the Cape May County Democratic Party when Gov. Chris Christie nominated him last week. He said he has practiced law in the county for 27 years.
At the confirmation hearing, Sutherland said county prosecutors have to balance the needs of law enforcement and the desires of the community.
“I recognize the gravity of the position,” he told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “You’re both the head of law enforcement, but you’re the face of law enforcement to the community.”
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, recommended Sutherland to the Republican governor under a longstanding policy known as senatorial courtesy.
Sutherland became the head of the county Democrats last year and has led an effort to re-establish local organizations in many Republican-leaning communities. His firm has offices in Linwood and the South Seaville section of Dennis Township.
He also talked about immigration and opiate abuse during his confirmation hearing.
The panel asked Sutherland about his views on immigration. He said he has visited Hispanic churches and school groups recently to talk to people about the issue.
“There’s a lot of talk in recent years about our immigrant populations,” he said. “Obviously, Cape May County is a resort area, and it relies heavily on immigrant populations.”
Sutherland said he would continue the county’s current policy toward undocumented immigrants.
He said law enforcement won’t patrol the streets looking for those who came into the country illegally, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be notified if an undocumented immigrant is charged with an indictable offense.
Contacting ICE about an inmate lodged at the county jail is the responsibility of the county Sheriff’s Office, Sutherland added.
He also said officers have had to expand their duties due to the opiate problem in the region.
“This makes police officers law enforcers, counselors and, at times, medics — having to introduce Narcan to help revive some of these people,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland will take over from acting Prosecutor Rob Johnson, who was appointed in September after Bob Taylor retired after 13 years as prosecutor.
Prosecutors in New Jersey serve five-year terms.