Passaic County sheriff’s apparent suicide comes after tumultuous week for the department
The law enforcement community is mourning the death of Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik.
Berdnik apparently took his own life inside Toro’s Restaurant in Clifton Tuesday afternoon. He'd been sheriff since 2011.
There’s no way to know exactly what led to Berdnik's death, but his apparent suicide comes after a tumultuous week for the department. The FBI arrested three Passaic County sheriff’s deputies on Jan. 17, accusing them of beating a prisoner who was awaiting a court appearance. The attack happened at the old Passaic County Jail in Paterson in 2022. Federal prosecutors say the attack was motivated by revenge after the prisoner allegedly splashed a guard with urine. Passaic County no longer uses the Paterson jail.
One day after the arrests, Berdnik emailed his staff to say that due to budget cuts, the department was going to have to lay off 29 corrections officers. News 12 asked a spokesperson for Passaic County if those layoffs are still in the works. The spokesperson did not respond.
Berdnik had a three-decade-long career in law enforcement. Many in the law enforcement community are reacting with sadness to his death, including Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes. Valdes issued a statement that said: "It is with a heavy heart that the Passaic County law enforcement community mourns the loss of Sheriff Richard Berdnik, a true law enforcement professional, partner, and colleague.”