CRANFORD, NJ – What began as a way to honor fellow police officers killed in the line of duty, has turned into an annual bike ride, raising millions for a brotherhood. The Police Unity Tour was founded in 1997, by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of Florham Park. His mission, to bring awareness to fellow officers killed in the line of duty and to honor their sacrifices.
On May 9, five Cranford Police officers set out with the first chapter from Northern New Jersey, to begin their approximately 300 mile ride, to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.. Captain Guy Patterson, Detective Derrick Farbanec and Patrolman Joseph Stulpin joined in the ride, while Patrolman Thomas Stiansen and Matthew Siessel provided crucial support for the riders.
For Patterson and Farbanec, it was their third year participating in the Unity Tour, Stulpin’s second, it was his first to ride and the first year for Stiansen and Siessel. The team’s training involved rides to the Watchung Reservation, Somerset County and training runs with the Unity Tour, in the weeks leading up to the event. The four legs of the journey are approximately 45 miles, 95 miles, 95 miles, finishing with 45-50 miles on the last day.
The teams would begin their day as early as 7:00 a.m. and ride until 5:00 p.m., riding 20-30 miles at a time, with about a 20 minute break. Some of those breaks would take place at Target stores along the way. Target, a big supporter of the Unity Tour, would have tents set up, a place to freshen-up, snacks, water and encouragement available for the riders.
Due to the events that were occurring in Baltimore, there was a change of plans on the fourth day, the teams were bused into RFK Stadium and rode the five miles into Washington D.C. from there. Farbanec said, “They didn’t was to take the resources from where there was a critical need.” The ride into Washington D.C. toward the memorial, held a parade-like atmosphere, according to Farbanec, “It took about an hour and a half for all the bikes to ride in and assemble at the memorial.”
Upon arrival at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, a ceremony is held. Craig W. Floyd, Chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, was presented with a check for 1.9 million dollars, to help fund the memorial and the building of a museum.
Patterson reflected on the ride, “It is four days spent meeting new people, riding along-side of fellow officers and even family members, riding in memory of a fallen officer.” He continued, “It is one of the best events to be involved in.”
When asked why they do it, Patterson and Farbanec share a similar perspective, Farbanec stated, “We do it for the challenge, we enjoy participating in tough mudders and marathons and we enjoy fundraising for a good cause.” Patterson concurred, “It’s a challenge, it is a great cause that we are proud to be a part of it and look forward to doing it next year.”
According to its website, www.policeunitytour.com, In May 1997 the Police Unity Tour was organized, by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department, with the hope of bringing public awareness of Police Officers who have died in the line of duty and to honor their sacrifices. What started with 18 riders on a four day fund-raising bicycle ride from Florham Park, NJ to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. and raised $18,000.Has grown into 9 Chapters consisting of over 1800 members nationwide who make the trip annually.