New Jersey officials mourn death of Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik

Anthony Johnson Image
Thursday, January 25, 2024
NJ officials mourn death of Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik
Anthony Johnson has more on the loss of the Passaic County sheriff.

CLIFTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Residents of Passaic County, New Jersey are in shock and mourning the loss of a popular sheriff who took his own life on Tuesday.

Purple and black bunting was hung at the public safety building in Passaic County as law enforcement dealt with another tragic death in the family of police officers.

"He's always been an absolute gentleman and it was a pleasure working with him, I wish there was something we could have done," said New Jersey PBA President Pat Calligon.

In a shocking development, Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik took his own life after entering the bathroom of a popular restaurant in Clifton Wednesday afternoon. It's a place where many in law enforcement and politics enjoy a meal.

"I affectionally referred to Richard Berdnik as America's sheriff. He as an exemplary law enforcement leader and a cherished friend," Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said.

The mayor says he had just reached out to the sheriff earlier this week. His loss is being felt throughout the state, including the governor.

"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 Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement.

Passaic Mayor Hector Lora was also close to the sheriff.

Berdnik started his illustrious career as a volunteer cop in Passaic and went to the Clifton Police Department and rose through the ranks. During his 40-year career, he was known as a law enforcement professional.

"Just an absolute gentleman, always pleasant to deal with even when we were on opposite sides of an issue," Calligon said.

Police officers have one of the highest rates of suicide in the country. Recently, a Bronxville Police Sgt. Morgan Watson killed his family and turned the gun on himself.

Experts say usually there are no obvious signs of trouble.

"It's not like you've got the radar detector, and you came by me 65 in a 50, you can't get in that person's head," said NJPBA Peer Response Coordinator Luke Sciallo.

Officers are encouraged to call one of the following numbers below to seek help.

The New Jersey Police Benevolent Association says there are anywhere from a dozen to 17 cop suicides in the state each year, and most are preventable if the officers just reach out for help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide - free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call or text the national lifeline at 988.

Find support for issues with mental health, drugs, or alcohol through the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.


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