SOMERVILLE, NJ – A State Police helicopter and a contingent of police motorcycles escorted between 500-600 police cyclists as they pedaled their way through the borough Wednesday afternoon on their way to Washington, DC.
The four-day Police Unity Tour is commemorating its 22nd anniversary May 9-12, with thousands of police officers converging on the nation’s capital to pay tribute to officers killed in the line of duty and the families left behind.
Summit officer killed on Route 78 in Bernards among those honored
Police from across the country to honor their brothers killed in the line of duty, including Summit Police Det. Matthew Tarentino, a Somerville resident who was killed in a car crash on Route 78 in Bernards Township last May.
Hundreds of students from Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School waving American flags lined Mountain Avenue to show their support, as did hundreds of students at the Van Derveer School along Route 28 as the pack of cyclists made their way to Manville before stopping in Somerset to spend the night.
The fifth day, May 13, will be filled by a candlelight vigil and ceremonies at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.
Somerville police officers Vito Spadea, George Obiedzinski and Tim Franks, who retired last year, were in the pack of cyclists. This is Frank’s fifth year, Spadea’s fourth and Obiedzinski’s first year. participating in the Unity Tour.
Tarentino, who attended Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School, served as an altar boy at Immaculate Conception Church. He and his wife, Vickie, met at Immaculata High School, and were married at Immaculate Conception Church.
Thousands of police officers attended his funeral mass at the church last year.
Tarentino’s widow and the couple’s three young children were in the crowd along Mountain Avenue. Their two young sons wore black t-shirts with their father’s badge number, 121.
The 2,000 riders nationwide will help to heighten awareness of the dangers and hazards faced by law enforcement officers, honor those who have died in the line of duty and raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.
Spadea, Franks and Obiedzinski started off the first day of cycling in Florham Park and headed south, making their way to Routes 202/206 before heading down Mountain Avenue. They were joined by police from Branchburg, Bridgewater, Bound Brook and Peapack-Gladstone; Summit police also cycled through Somerville on the first day of the tour, according to Spadea.
The riders turned from Mountain Avenue on to West End Avenue alongside Borough Hall before heading down West Main Street across Bridge Street and past a huge crowd that greeted the line of cyclists along East Main Street in front of the historic Somerset County Courthouse.
The cyclists will then proceed down Grove Street in front of the Somerset County Administration Building, Sheriff's Office and Somerset County Jail where hundreds of Sheriff officers and several K9 officers and their partners came out to sa;ute the cyclists.as they pedaled their way to Route 28, where students at the Van Derveer School stood outside and paidtribute to the cyclists. Their trip continued towards Finderne Avenue into Manville and on to Weston Canal Road to connect with Davidson Avenue in Franklin, where they will spend the night at area hotels before heading out Thursday morning May 10 for their second day of cycling.
Yesterday, the cyclists covered 44 miles.
By the end of Day Two, the cyclists will reach Philadelphia; Day 3, May 11, the destination is Baltimore. They will arrive in Washington on May 12, Day 4 and converge at the police memorial, according to Spadea. The officers will participate in the candlelight vigil on May 13.
The Police Unity Tour was organized by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department in May, 1997.
Since then, the annual event has raised nearly $25 million.
· In late 2005, the Police Unity Tour pledged $5 million in support of the National Law Enforcement Museum.
· Having completed the $5 million commitment to the Museum in 2009 the Police Unity Tour dedicated the 2010 ride to the restoration of the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The $1.1 million restoration project included the re-engraving, coating and sealing of the 18,983 names on the memorial as well as the cleaning of the walls and other memorial improvements.
· In 2011 the Police Unity Tour became the official sponsor of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s “Officer of the Month Program.” Officers of the Month are honored at a special awards luncheon each May in Washington, DC during National Police Week, and they are featured in the Memorial Fund’s annual calendar.
· This year, 360 names of fallen police officers will be added to the memorial, including Tarentino.