A New Jersey police officer who was caught on tape saying he didn’t have to follow the Constitution has resigned, officials familiar with the incident said Thursday.
Richard Recine was a part-time officer with the Helmetta Borough Police Department. He was captured on tape Monday questioning a group of citizens about their presence in a public building.
One of those residents, Steve Wronko, said he was there videotaping the borough’s animal shelter. When Recine questioned him, Wronko said he had a right to be in the public building.
As the verbal confrontation escalated, Recine told the group, “Obama has decimated the friggin' Constitution, so I don't give a damn.”
"Because if he doesn't follow the Constitution we don't have to,” Recine is heard saying of the president on the video.
Borough Police Director Robert Manney told MyCentralJersey.com that the officer’s comments were an “embarrassment.”
Borough Administrator Herbert Massa confirmed Thursday with USA Today that Manney accepted the officer’s resignation after the video began circulating on the Internet.
“I don't want to give a black eye to law enforcement,” Recine, 59, said in a subsequent interview of his decision to resign. “People are saying some really nasty stuff about cops. I don't want all officers painted with the same brush.”
The resignation ends Recine’s 36-year career in law enforcement. He said the decision to leave the force was “mutual” between he and Manney.
Recine added that, as a registered Democrat, he didn’t really believe the things he said in the video and that he was being “sarcastic.”
"It was just a stupid statement on my part. He got me riled and I said it," he explained. "I don't believe that at all. I'm the most patriotic person in the world. I believe in God, the flag, country, the Constitution.”
Wronko and his wife have been part of a local effort to reform the borough’s animal shelter. They said they had been asked twice before Monday’s incident to stop taking pictures in and around the shelter.
“I tried to explain to him that since 9/11 you just can't walk into a place and take videos,” Recine offered as an explanation. “All he kept on doing was saying he had civil rights, and the Constitution, and he didn't have to give me information. And I kind of like lost my temper.”
Manney said that his officers were right to question Wronko and his wife and to ask them to leave the building but that Recine’s comments were inappropriate.
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