CLIFTON, NJ – Local leaders, residents, and colleagues are expressing shock and grief after Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik died by suicide in a public restaurant. Berdnik, a seasoned law enforcement professional and a well-liked figure in the community, took his life in the restaurant Toros in Clifton, New Jersey, on Tuesday afternoon.
Berdnik’s loss hit the community hard, with former Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark recalling his quiet demeanor, commitment to law enforcement, and consistent kindness. A veteran of nearly 30 years in law enforcement, Berdnik’s suicide comes on the heels of a challenging week for his department, which recently revealed plans to lay off 29 corrections officers due to county jail downsizing.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, what started as a normal afternoon changed abruptly when a gunshot was heard from the restaurant’s restroom. Berdnik had posed for a picture with Huseyin Bayram, one of the restaurant’s owners, just before the tragic incident. Earlier that day, Bayram had received the key to the city of Paterson, New Jersey, for his contributions during the pandemic.
Before serving as county sheriff, a position he held since 2011 and for which he had recently won re-election for a fifth three-year term, Berdnik served in the Clifton Police Department since 1982. Berdnik’s celebrated career witnessed a broad spectrum of cases, from theft investigation in his early days to tackling teenage stabbings in his later years. His prolific career also includes the heroic rescue of three people from a burning building in 1991 and apprehending an armed robber in 2003.
The news of Berdnik’s suicide has left the locals in shock and disbelief. Kazmark emphasized the need for compassion and kindness as everyone battles their inner struggles. Berdnik, a doting father and a devoted husband, is survived by his wife Monica and their four adult children.