SOMERVILLE, NJ – Hundreds of students from Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School waving American flags will line Mountain Avenue to greet as many as 400 police officers from dozens of New Jersey departments as the long line of blue cycles its way through town on their way to Washington, DC on May 9th.
The four-day Police Unity Tour is commemorating its 23rd anniversary May 9-12, with 2,000 police officers converging on the nation’s capital to pay tribute to officers killed in the line of duty and the families left behind. Several different groups set off from starting points in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. They will converge at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in the nation’s capital.
The fifth day, May 13th, will be filled by a candlelight vigil and ceremonies at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.
Somerville police officers Vito Spadea and Tim Franks, who retired two years ago, will be in the pack of cyclists. This is Frank’s sixth year, Spadea’s fifth. Officer George Obiedzinski will join the tour on Day Two; it will be his second year participating in the Unity Tour.
Retired Bridgewater Police Sgt. Scott Hobbs will also ride through Somerville, with two other officers from Bridgewater PD, Kurt Bernhad and Pat Knapp. A third officer, Brian Sujansky, will be riding in a support vehicle, several of which accompany the cyclists on their journey south.
This will be the 18th year Hobbs has cycled in the Unity Tour, inspired by a police cycling instructor in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, which took the lives of hundreds of police officers and first responders.
“I liked it, kept coming back, and got more involved,” Hobbs said. He is now a member of the Unity Tour national Board of Directors and the New Jersey chapter’s board.
Hobbs said he looks forward to cycling through Somerville, as do most of the other officers because of the turnout along the cycling route.
“It’s motivating for the guys; they all look forward to coming through Somerville every year,” Hobbs said.
They will join with police from across the country to honor their brothers killed in the line of duty, including Summit Police Det. Matthew Tarentino, who had lived in Somerville when he was killed in a Route 78 car accident two years ago.
The students lining Mountain Avenue where Immaculate Conception and Immaculata High School are located will be paying tribute to Tarentino, who attended both schools and served as an altar boy at Immaculate Conception Church.
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.
The long line of blue cyclists will start off the first day of cycling in Florham Park and head south, making their way to Routes 202/206 before heading down Mountain Avenue.
The riders will turn from Mountain Avenue on to West End Avenue alongside Borough Hall before heading down West Main Street; a huge crowd will greet 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. More than one dozen K9 officers and their partners will salute them as they ride by on their way to Route 28, where students at the Van Derveer School will stand outside and pay tribute to the cyclists. Their trip will continue 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.
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.