Police & Fire

Long Blue Line of Police Cyclists Stretches Through Somerville and Franklin; Police Unity Tour Heads to Nation’s Capital to Honor Fallen Officers

61c3907720a812809716_sompixunitytour2017vitowaves.JPG
Somerville police officer Vito Spadea, on bike at left, waves to Somerville Police Chief Dennis Manning and other police officers watching the Unity Tour pass through the borough. Credits: Rod Hirsch
f9f4542e241e2ce74e25_sompixunitytour2017group.JPG
Police cyclists pedal through Somerville on their way to Washington, DC Credits: Rod Hirsch
2a768544fc3142bb7b87_sompixunitytour2017copterflag.JPG
A State Police helicopter flies overhead as police cyclists pass beneath an American flag draped on a Somerville Fire Department truck's extension ladder. Credits: Rod Hirsch
1e02f5f0aa2a1f5c7501_sompixunitytour2017helmetflags.JPG
A police officer's helmet is decorated with flags and medallions. Credits: Rod Hirsch
245d360eda94eb357472_sompixunitytour2017photo.JPG
A police cyclists takes pictures of the crowd as he pedals through Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
6ee0fe57281c09585f50_sompixunitytour2017signs.JPG
Signs of support for their police offices were spotted in yesterday's crowd along Main Street in Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
de2ebbe310b0b3c170f0_DSC_0023.JPG
Long Blue Line of Police Cyclists Stretches Through Somerville and Franklin; Police Unity Tour Heads to Nation’s Capital to Honor Fallen Officers Credits: Malik Lyons
ebb1adbc5b23df1bde31_DSC_0032.JPG
Long Blue Line of Police Cyclists Stretches Through Somerville and Franklin; Police Unity Tour Heads to Nation’s Capital to Honor Fallen Officers Credits: Malik Lyons
20ea16c61a7796719bd7_DSC_0035.JPG
Long Blue Line of Police Cyclists Stretches Through Somerville and Franklin; Police Unity Tour Heads to Nation’s Capital to Honor Fallen Officers Credits: Malik Lyons
9ead94542fc83886edde_IMG_1678.jpg
Long Blue Line of Police Cyclists Stretches Through Somerville and Franklin; Police Unity Tour Heads to Nation’s Capital to Honor Fallen Officers Credits: Malik Lyons
61c3907720a812809716_sompixunitytour2017vitowaves.JPG

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Five hundred riders from five different states left Spring Hill Suites by Marriott Somerset-Franklin Township, Wednesday morning to make their way to Washington, DC, picking up additional riders along the way for this year's Police Unity Tour.

Detective Chad Smith and Police Aide Diana Villas from the Bloomfield Police Department in addition to officers from San Diego, Los Angeles, and Colorado were providing support for the riders using motorcycles and other police vehicles. 

"We have four riders ranking from Luetienents, Detectives, and Officers and it is the first time for everyone," Villas said. 

Sign Up for E-News

Original Story

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Borough police officer Vitorio Spadea, along with hundreds of police officers from scores of police agencies throughout New Jersey rode into town Tuesday, May 9 on their way to Washington, DC where they will join with police from across the country to honor their brothers killed in the line of duty.

Spadea normally rides with fellow Somerville police officer Tim Franks who was unable to ride this year as he is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in a PBA flag football game a few months ago.

The four-day Police Unity Tour is commemorating its 21th anniversary May 9-12, with police from around the country converging on the nation’s capital to pay tribute to the slain officers and the families left behind.

The fifth day, May 13th, will be filled by a candlelight vigil and ceremonies at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.

“It’s all about honoring those whose families are now suffering from the loss of their loved ones,” Spadea said.

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.

Both Spadea and Franks have participated in the Unity Tour in past years.

Spadea credits Franks for getting him involved with the race, as well as Bridgewater police officer Arthur Akins, a resident of Somerville described by Spadea as a good friend.

Franks said fellow mountain bike instructors at the county police academy urged him to participate for several years, but there was always an excuse.

“I’m too busy, I don’t have time, you know,” Franks said.

That changed when Claude Racine, one of his fellow Somerville police officers died just before the race four years ago. Racine had ridden in the Unity Tour and had planned to ride that year.

Franks knew he had to ride to honor the memory of Racine.

“That’s all the motivation I needed,” Franks said.

Spadea watched as Franks rode through town that year.

“I saw him coming through town and it got real emotional watching him and those guys ride through town; I said to myself ‘I’ve got to do this next year.’ ‘’

Franks added, “It’s a real rush, you appreciate the people being out there, it shows there is still a lot of support for police officers.”

In keeping with tradition, Spadea will dedicate his 300-mile trek to fallen police officers, including two from Somerville that were killed in the line of duty 100 years ago.

A memorial erected by Somerville PBA #147 alongside the doorway into police headquarters  memorializes Officer Manning T. Crow, shot after confronting three burglars in a butcher shop on South Street in 1899 and Officer Julius Sauer who was shot by a man threatening suicide in 1917. After shooting Sauer, the man killed himself.

Spadea will also dedicate his ride to two other fallen officers, each of whom he knew.

Spadea will be riding to honor his friend and fallen Watchung police officer Matthew Melchionda, killed in a North Plainfield collision in 2006 when responding to back up undercover officers at a traffic stop, as well as state Trooper Scott Gonzalez, killed in Warren County when responding to a domestic dispute in 1997. Spadea said he knew the trooper when he was growing up.

 Finally, Spadea will quietly honor Racine.

Spadea will be riding the same bicycle Racine had ridden on the Unity Tour. His widow gifted the bike to Spadea.

She told me ‘I still have Claude’s bicycle he rode to DC I think maybe someone would want it.’

“I told her ‘I would love to have the bike,’ ’’ he said.

“It’s in honor of him because he rode the bike and he worked for us,” Spadea said. “Riding his bicycle down, for me, I consider that he is riding with me; we’re riding down together.”

Students at Immaculata High School and Immaculate Conception Schools came outside to cheer on the cyclists as they ride down Mountain Avenue before heading east on Main Street. The cyclists passed beneath a huge American flag attached to a Somerville Fire Department truck’s extension ladder hung over East Main Street.

The riders headed east down Route 28 past VanderVeer School,  onto 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 Wednesday, May 10.

 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 RFK Stadium before riding to the police memorial.

“Riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with the US Capitol in front of you, with 2,000 other bicyclists, police car and motorcycle escorts, everybody stopping, watching and waving, it’s incredible,” Franks said.

“I’m not a svelte guy; it takes a lot to finish those 300 miles,” Franks added. “Towards the end a lot of the guys are running out of steam but there’s hundreds of other behind them cheering them on reminding them why they’re riding.

“The guys suck it up; they might not be able to walk for a week afterwards, but it’s all in good humor and for a good reason,” he added.

The ceremony at the law enforcement memorial is a moving tribute to the families of officers killed in the line of duty, according to Spadea and Franks.

They are escorted to their seats one-by-one as the officers salute them. The name of each fallen officer is read off.

“Some guys just can’t handle it, it’s rough, real emotional,” Franks said.

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 over $20 million.

Last year the police cyclists raised $2.5 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. The Police Unity Tour is also proud to sponsor the NLEOMF’s “Recently Fallen Alerts.”

Each cyclist must raise $1,850 to participate in the Unity Tour, according to Spadea, who has raised over $2,000. Some of that money pays for each cyclist’s hotel, food and other related expenses. What’s not spent is donated to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.

Spadea worked with students at Somerville High School to design a limited-edition brass and enamel medallion.  He sold 300 medallions to raise over $3,000.

“The idea is to spread awareness,” Spadea explained. “It would be easy to ask my PBA to sponsor me for the ride, but by me asking for single contributions it helps get people to know about the ride, what it is about and have them help out.

“They’re doing their part to honor a fallen police officer,” Spadea said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Franklin Township

Franklin Township: St. Matthias 31st Annual Carnival

April 22, 2018

SOMERSET, NJ - All are invited to St. Matthias' 31st annual carnival starting Tuesday, May 15, the event will run until Sunday, May 20. 

The family-friendly event will be held on their church grounds at 170 JFK Boulevard. Attendees can enjoy rides, food, games, and fellowship.

The following information is published on the St. Matthias' website:

Times and Key ...

Police Investigate Bias Incident in Montgomery, Seek Help from Public

April 20, 2018

MONTGOMERY, NJ - Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson and township Police Director/Capt. Thomas Wain are asking the public for help in the investigation of what is being considered a bias crime.

Detectives assigned to the investigation released that the following information based on the preliminary and ongoing investigation, which continues to evolve as investigators interview ...

Area Rotary Club Fair: Fun Place to Do Business

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The Rotary Club of Hillsborough will provide local businesses multiple opportunities to showcase their services and connect directly with customers at its 11th annual Rotary Fair, scheduled this year for Aug. 14–19.

More than 15,000 people from Hillsborough and surrounding communities are expected to visit the weeklong family event held at the Hillsborough Promenade, ...

Area Church Set To Host “Little Big Shots” Viewing Starring Lil Asmar

SOUTH PLAINFIELD,  NJ —  Impact Church is inviting the public to a viewing of NBC’s “Little Big Shots” featuring South Plainfield resident, 11-year-old bass guitarist, Lil Asmar. It is  a feel-good, family-friendly series hosted by Steve Harvey, "Little Big Shots" showcases talented and unique kids from all over the ...

Somerville: “Shop ‘til You Drop Resale Extravaganza” April 21

SOMERVILLE, NJ – The “Shop ‘til You Drop Resale Extravaganza” on April 21st is meant to draw attention to the borough’s  burgeoning network of antiques, collectibles and consignment shops.

Nine stores will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., each offering discounts and prizes for those looking for truly unique, one-of-a-kind items at affordable ...

East Brunswick's Rabbi Aryeh Goodman Charged with Sex Trafficking of a Child

NEWARK, N.J. – Two individuals who allegedly forced a child into commercial sex acts at multiple hotels throughout Middlesex, Bergen, and Essex counties, will appear in court today with one of their customers to face federal sex trafficking charges, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.  The "customer" is Rabbi Aryeh Goodman, 35, of East Brunswick, who is charged in a ...

Governor Names New Brunswick an "Opportunity Zone"

NEW BRUNSWICK - Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that the U.S. Department of Treasury has approved New Brunswick as one of 169 recommended designations for Opportunity Zones throughout the Garden State.

The Opportunity Zone Program is designed to drive long-term capital investments into low-income rural and urban communities. There are 75 municipalities in the state ...

Police Investigate Bias Incident in Montgomery, Seek Help from Public

April 20, 2018

MONTGOMERY, NJ - Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson and township Police Director/Capt. Thomas Wain are asking the public for help in the investigation of what is being considered a bias crime.

Detectives assigned to the investigation released that the following information based on the preliminary and ongoing investigation, which continues to evolve as investigators interview ...

Area Rotary Club Fair: Fun Place to Do Business

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The Rotary Club of Hillsborough will provide local businesses multiple opportunities to showcase their services and connect directly with customers at its 11th annual Rotary Fair, scheduled this year for Aug. 14–19.

More than 15,000 people from Hillsborough and surrounding communities are expected to visit the weeklong family event held at the Hillsborough Promenade, ...

Area Church Set To Host “Little Big Shots” Viewing Starring Lil Asmar

SOUTH PLAINFIELD,  NJ —  Impact Church is inviting the public to a viewing of NBC’s “Little Big Shots” featuring South Plainfield resident, 11-year-old bass guitarist, Lil Asmar. It is  a feel-good, family-friendly series hosted by Steve Harvey, "Little Big Shots" showcases talented and unique kids from all over the ...

Somerset County Town to Close Library

April 21, 2018

WATCHUNG, NJ  - The Watchung Borough Council voted on Thursday night, before packed chambers and over 500 watching on Facebook live,  to close the Watchung Library and explore redevelopment of the library site on Stirling Road.

After years of discussion and debate, the council decided not to renovate the existing library or construct a new library. Mayor Stephen Pote ...

Somerset Resident Wins Gold at the 2018 New Jersey SkillsUSA Championships

BRIDGEWATER, NJ – On April 14, Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School students competed against other career and technical education students from around the state at the 2018 New Jersey SkillsUSA Championships. 

Out of the 94 students from SCVTHS who competed, 63 received medals including 27 gold.  The gold medal winners are now eligible to test their skills in ...

Franklin Non-Profits Win Luxury Suite at TD Bank Ballpark

SOMERVILLE, NJ - Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione selected 40 nonprofit organizations in an annual drawing for Community Box seats at the TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater.

The winners will have an opportunity to watch the “Boys of Summer” play home games on various dates during the Somerset Patriots’ 2018 season.

“Somerset County has made this 30-seat community ...

Somerset County Town to Close Library

April 21, 2018

WATCHUNG, NJ  - The Watchung Borough Council voted on Thursday night, before packed chambers and over 500 watching on Facebook live,  to close the Watchung Library and explore redevelopment of the library site on Stirling Road.

After years of discussion and debate, the council decided not to renovate the existing library or construct a new library. Mayor Stephen Pote ...

Somerset Resident Wins Gold at the 2018 New Jersey SkillsUSA Championships

BRIDGEWATER, NJ – On April 14, Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School students competed against other career and technical education students from around the state at the 2018 New Jersey SkillsUSA Championships. 

Out of the 94 students from SCVTHS who competed, 63 received medals including 27 gold.  The gold medal winners are now eligible to test their skills in ...