Police officers in New Jersey swear to uphold the United States Constitution as part of their oath of office. But one cop has decided that, because ‒ in his eyes ‒ President Barack Obama doesn’t follow the document, he doesn’t have to either.
Special Police Officer Richard Recine, a part-time employee of the Borough of Helmetta Police Department, was caught on video saying, "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."
The statement was made in response to resident Steve Wronko, who was at the municipal building to serve an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request after being kicked out of the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter earlier in the week, and to complain about recent health code violations there and nepotism stemming from Mayor Nancy Martin.
In 2011, Martin made her son, Brandon Metz, the head of the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter. She also appointed him to Animal Cruelty Investigator, Borough Laborer, Water Meter Reader, and Certified Recycling Coordinator, according to the town website. A Facebook page called Reform Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter claims that there are recurring inhumane practices and state health code violations
Recine was called to the municipal building because Wronko was taking pictures inside. When the cop approached him, Wronko said, “I’ve made objections about what’s going on at the shelter over there,” adding, “My First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated, my civil rights were violated.”
There is some back and forth over Wronko’s ability to take pictures in the public building.
“Under New Jersey law, with the alarming and all that… I’m in a public building recording, which is my First and Second Amendment rights…” Wronko said.
That’s when Recine replied that he didn’t give a damn about the Constitution because of Obama’s actions..
Wronko then asked the person recording ‒ his 13-year-old daughter Erin ‒ to make sure the conversation was being captured for posterity. Recine also asked, “Yeah, did you get that?”
He then repeated himself: “Because the president decimated our Constitution, then we don’t have to.”
After more back-and-forth between the two men, Police Director Robert “Bob” Manney approaches and asks Wronko to leave for being disruptive. “Either get out, or you’re going to get locked up,” Manney eventually said, opening the door and gesturing for another officer to escort Wronko out.
When that cop placed his hand on Wronko’s back, he said, “Officer, please don’t touch me.”
Manney responded, “Sir, you’re being escorted out.”
On Wednesday, after the video was posted online, Manney said Recine's words were "uncalled for and unprofessional," the Home News Tribune reported.
Borough Administrator Herbert C. Massa told NJ.com Wednesday that the police director has begun an internal investigation into the officer’s remarks, but that Recine remains on duty. “[Manney] is in the process of reviewing the video,” Massa said. “There will be an investigation and a determination will be made about what happened.”
Manney told the Tribune that the inquiry should be "completed very swiftly" because "the evidence is right there."
"I've already spoken to that officer in regards to that. In my opinion it's an embarrassment," he added
Recine retired from the police department of nearby Franklin in 2006, and works as a part-time officer. He earns an hourly wage on top of a $79,000 annual pension.
Manney told the Tribune that police have the right to ask citizens to identify themselves in a municipal building.
"He was in our building and he got some of our employees upset," he said about Wronko. "They were worried because they've seen him before lurking around. In my opinion he was looking for an issue."
Wronko’s wife Collene said that her husband wasn’t able to serve the OPRA request. “We’re afraid to go back,” she said. “We don’t know if we’re going to be arrested or what’s going to happen to us.”
The family’s issue with the shelter stemmed from a dog they adopted that they were told was healthy. Instead, the dog turned out to be ill with parasites and the family spent about $4,000 on medical bills, Collene told NJ.com.