Passaic Sheriff Richard Berdnik Dead

From Left: Lepore, Berdnik, Murphy, Currie, Duffy, Pascrell, and Akhter.

From NorthJersey.com: Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik fatally shot himself Tuesday afternoon at Toros Restaurant on Hazel Street in Clifton, according to multiple sources.

Berdnik reportedly went into the restaurant’s bathroom when people in the restaurant heard a gunshot from inside, the sources said.

A source told InsiderNJ that Mr. Berdnik (pictured above, second from left) told someone else in his party that he would take his food to go.

He did not return after excusing himself to go to the men’s room.

A likeable former Clifton Police detective who first ran countywide in his successful bid for the sheriff’s office with the backing of the Passaic County Democratic Party, Mr. Berdnik suffered a recent past illness, according to a second source.

His sudden death today came as a shock to Passaic County and the New Jersey political community.

From NorthJersey.com:

More than a dozen police vehicles within a block, including Paterson police, Passaic sheriff, Clifton fire, Clifton police, all with their lights on. Nearby streets have been blocked off.

Authorities at the scene would not comment and deferred all questions to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

Berdnik, a retired Clifton police officer, has been the county sheriff since 2011, after winning re-election in Nov. 2022 for what would have been his fifth three-year term. Berdnik was in his mid-60s.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik,” said Governor Phil Murphy in a statement. “For more than four decades, Sheriff Berdnik courageously served the people of New Jersey — from his days as a police officer on the streets of Clifton to his five consecutive terms as the 49th Sheriff of Passaic County. Every single day, Sheriff Berdnik earned the trust of his constituents in Passaic County, and worked exhaustively to combat criminal activity, modernize the operations of the Sheriff’s Office, and meet the high standard of service we expect from members of law enforcement.

“Tammy and I were blessed to have counted Sheriff Berdnik as a close friend. We will miss him — and his leadership — dearly. And we are sending our prayers and condolences to Sheriff Berdnik’s wife, Monica, their four adult children, and the entire team at the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office.”

New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Colligan in a statement said, “It is simply stunning to learn of this tragic loss.  Sheriff Berdnik was a true public servant who worked every day with the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department to keep Passaic County streets and neighborhoods safe. Our deepest sympathies go out to the Sheriff’s family and loved ones as well as the many members of law enforcement touched by today’s tragedy.”

Said state Senator Nellie Pou (D-35):

“I am overcome with an unshakeable sadness to learn of the tragic passing of Sheriff Berdnik, who was a friend, a dedicated public servant, and a stable force for good in Passaic County. I had the privilege of working with Sheriff Berdnik and having many fruitful conversations with him in regard to law enforcement, the county jail, and the critical work being done at the Sheriff’s Office and throughout the county. He was a no-frills leader, well-liked among his corps of officers, and a man who quietly went about doing his job to make Passaic County a safer and better place to live. My deepest condolences go out to Sheriff Berdnik’s family during this most difficult and sorrowful time. His commitment and service to the county will be terribly missed by all who knew and loved him, and his loss will be felt across law enforcement ranks, and by residents in every part of the county.”

Mr. Berdnik’s official 2010 entry into Passaic County politics proved auspicious and critical for a reeling Democratic Party establishment trying to come to terms with Republican Governor Chris Christie, whose statewide winning campaign in 2009 resulted in lost commissioner seats for the Dems.

Mr. Berdnik’s predecessor in the sheriff’s office, the popular and politically savvy Jerry Speziale, left the job in favor of a job at the Port Authority, rather than pursue reelection as a Democrat. Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie tapped Mr. Berdnik of Clifton as his replacement.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) and other Democratic Party players running on the ticket that year with the specter of Christie hanging over the county, rallied around Berdnik’s candidacy.

They won, and the victory under difficult circumstances, enabled Pascrell to strengthen his organization at a crucial moment, ahead of the 2012, post-redistricting Democratic Primary contest, which he won as the underdog.

Said Pascrell this evening in reaction to the sad news:

“I am shocked at Richard Berdnik’s death. I am still processing this and waiting to learn more details. I am thinking and praying for his family and the Passaic Sheriff’s Department. I cannot believe this right now.”

Mr. Berdnik’s winning presence on that 2010 ticket showed the resiliency and strength of the party under Currie’s and Pascrell’s leadership in the face of a real GOP threat and within the gaping organizational hole left behind by Speziale.

“I love the job,” Sheriff Berdnik told NorthJersey.com, in reference to the sheriff’s office. “They say if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I look forward to going to work each and every day.”

 

 

 

 

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14 responses to “Passaic Sheriff Richard Berdnik Dead”

  1. His passing leaves a huge hole in my heart and the hearts of my family who knew and loved him. The kindest, gracious, most sincere community leader, advocate and most of all, someone I am proud to have called my friend. He will truly be missed.

    Now let’s continue the conversation about mental health and allow all physicians in the state of NJ to take leadership roles in our local schools and government!

  2. As a former resident of Wayne, I am sick over this news. Sheriff Berdnik was always kind and so gracious. May his family and friends find comfort in good memories.

  3. Why? What a kind man and dearly loved member of our community. Always got my families vote. Condolences, rip

  4. THERE IS A LOT MORE TO THIS TRAGIC DEATH OF A MAN WHO FROM WHAT I COULD SEE WAS DOING A GREAT JOB IN REGARDS TO HIS RESPONSIBILITIES UNLIKE MOST .THERE ARE SO MANY VARIATIONS THAT COULD HAVE OCCURRED,IT SEEMS SUPICIOUS AND STRANGE THAT JUST AS THE LAYOFFS WAS ABOUT TO OCCUR THIS HAPPENS AND IT SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED FURTHER BEFORE WE HANG THE TAG OF SUICIDE .WHO KNOWS REALLY HIS FAMILY COULD HAVE BEEN IN DANGER ..O AND HE HAD TO MAKE CHOICE OR THE CAMERA IN THE BAR SHOULD SHOW THE LAST PERSON IN THE NO CAMERA BATHROOM BEFORE HE ENTERED ..WHO KNOWS PLEASE INVESTIGATE FURTHER ..GOD BLESS HIS SOUL AND MY SINCERE CONDOLENCES TO HIS WIFE AND FAMILY.

  5. Very sad. I only had the pleasure to meet him twice but he was a very nice person and professional person. My deepest condolences to his family and friends and his men and women in blue.🙏🏻🇺🇸💙

  6. Agreed that this needs to be investigated further… A God fearing man doesn’t do this to himself and surely not Sheriff Berdnik… do not leave this like this.. he wouldn’t commit suicide he loved the job, loved helping people! These times make me sick to my stomach..there is probably something else at play. ( Politics sicken me)

  7. If Sheriff Berdnik did himself in because he had underlying mental problems, then maybe we need to look at all law enforcement in New Jersey, especially the leaders of each law enforcement agency in the state, including the State Police, and give them stringent psychological and psychiatric evaluations. Any law enforcement officer carrying a firearm needs to be ordered to take psychological and psychiatric evaluations.

  8. I am very sorry to hear the sad news may God bless his family give them strength to be strong ,I will them in my prayers

  9. I remember officer Berdnik when I lived on Grace Ave in Clifton and he was a young just starting in the area as a patrolman. We would talk and he was always there if you needed him. May he rest in peace. God bless his family at this difficult time. HE WAS THE BEST!

  10. Interesting that Berdnik was buying supplies and equipment for the Passaic County Sheriff’s Dept. from a known criminal and possible terrorist.

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