YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: This year’s Policy Unity Tour is getting a quick start in New Jersey, with events beginning this and next week and continuing right up to the May 9 sendoff of the 330-mile ride to Washington, D.C. in memory of, among others, the area’s own Michael Morgan.
What began with 18 cyclists 15 years ago has grown to more than 1,250 nationwide who’ll be making the trip this spring to help raise awareness and funds for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Among those making the trek will be five officers from the Mahwah Police Department and dozens of others from throughout the area.
Each has pledged to raise the minimum $1,750 required to participate (TO CONTRIBUTE: SEE BELOW).
Nine police officers in New Jersey have died in the line of duty in less than two years. These include Morgan, who was gunned down in cold blood on a Paterson street last Nov. 7 when he stepped between a robber and a woman whose purse the criminal was trying to grab.
There’s also Mount Arlington Officer Joseph Wargo, killed by a drunk driver, and Lakewood Officer Christopher Matlosz, whose cold-blooded killer was convicted just last week. All will be on the minds of many of the officers participating this year. So will others.
No one who knew her has taken the ride without holding former Fair Lawn P.O. Mary Ann Collura close to their hearts.
SEE: Memorial service for Mary Ann Collura
Collura’s colleague, Fair Lawn Police Sgt. Richard Schultz, and 17 fellow officers from North Jersey launched the annual ride to the memorial in 1997, carrying an initial gift of $18,000.
Now they need at least 30 motor escorts for the outpouring of officers who will set off from various points throughout the state.
The group’s motto, “We Ride for Those Who Died,” says it all, said Schultz, who chronicled the trip for CLIFFVIEW PILOT last year ( SEE: Police Unity Tour: An Officer’s Journal ).
“As a charter member of the group, I can honestly say this is probably the best thing I have gotten involved with besides supporting Special Olympics,” Schultz said. “The surviving families I know appreciate what this group does. And that’s really what makes it worth doing.”
This year’s donations could push the total over $10 million, some of which has gone toward a restoration project that includes re-engraving, coating and sealing the more than 19,000 names on the memorial in Washington.
Members of the Passaic Police Unity Tour team are hoping that a beefsteak dinner, with a deejay and dancing, at the Brownstone in Paterson a week from this Saturday becomes an annual tradition.
Customs agents with Team Port Newark have their own fundraiser set for March 5 at Anthony’s Coal Fired Grill in Edison.
Several other events are on tap.
Chapters from North Jersey, South Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia, Florida — and two in California — are sending riders.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT will be providing coverage leading up to and including the Police Unity Tour 2012, which sets off from New Jersey on Wednesday, May 9 and arrives at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial in the nation’s capital on Saturday, May 12. Sunday night features a candlelight vigil.
DONATIONS of any amount are appreciated. Here are some other suggestions:
Honoring the inaugural ride’s 18;
Year of the Inaugural Police Unity Tour;
Every 53 hrs, on average, an LEO dies;
Number of LEOs killed on 9/11;
Number of LEOs killed each year;
LEOs serve their communities around the clock;
Deadliest day in LEO history/nat’l emergency #;
Get commemorative gift, your name on all Police Unity Tour support trailers;
Sponsor a tour member.
Donating through the website is simple, fast and secure: POLICE UNITY TOUR: FIRST GIVING