ROXBURY, NJ - Former Roxbury Police Lt. Joseph Franklin died today from injuries he suffered Monday in a bicycle accident during a police charity event, it was announced this evening.
Franklin's passing was confirmed by the Roxbury Police Department and in a statement from his family. "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Joseph Franklin," said the family. "Helping others, even in death, he donated his organs to those in need."
The family requested privacy "during this extremely difficult time" and thanked the community for the support it has shown.
"I saw Joe Monday at the starting line to the (Police) Unity Tour and spoke with him for about 30 minutes," said Roxbury Police Chief Marc Palanchi in a statement. "Joe was enthusiastic about how much he was enjoying retirement and how great everything was going in North Carolina. He told me he had become an avid bike rider and said he started every day with a 25-35 mile ride, and then he would play golf or head to the beach."
Palanchi said his former colleague "was excited about and looking forward to the Unity Tour to ride in honor of the fallen and see all of his friends" who were also participating in the event.
"We shook hands, wished each other well and he told me to tell all of the guys to be safe as he rode away," said Palanchi. "A short time later he was involved in the accident."
Franklin retired in 2007 after serving 25 years with the Roxbury Police Department. He was hired in 1982 as a patrolman, said Palanchi.
"During his long and successful career Joe served the agency in many different ranks and capacities, but his greatest contribution to our Department and the community was his initiation of Explorer Post 2188 in 1991."
The chief said more than 500 young men and women participated in the program under Franklin's supervision. "He gave his time, energy and provided leadership and guidance to young people effortlessly," said Palanchi. "Following the example set forth by Joe, many of those explorers went on to become police officers, while others simply went on to become productive members of society."
The chief noted that Explorer Post 2188 and Franklin were awarded repeatedly over the years at both the local and national level. He also said Franklin helped many other Morris County law enforcement agencies create Explorer posts. "Joe Franklin was practicing community policing long before anybody was even calling it that," said Palanchi.
During his tenure with the Roxbury department, Franklin served as a patrolman, a traffic officer, a patrol sergeant, a traffic sergeant, a patrol lieutenant, a traffic lieutenant and a community services lieutenant, said the chief.
"He was a 1997 graduate of the prestigious West Point Command and Leadership program," he added. "Joe was awarded the 1993 William H. Spurgeon Leadership Award by the Boy Scouts of America." Franklin also created "the one week Police Explorer Academy, which gave kids an opportunity to experience what it was like to attend a Police Academy," said Palanchi.
He called the donation of Franklin's organs "one final heroic act" by the beloved lieutenant. "If I could use one word to sum Joe up best it would be honorable," said Palanchi. "God Bless you Joe, you were part of the Roxbury Police Department family and we along with many others will miss you."
Franklin was involved in a serious bicycle crash early in Monday's annual Police Unity Tour. Details about the accident have not been released by investigators.
Funeral arrangements will be published when they are determined.
Others who knew and worked with Franklin in Roxbury, including former Roxbury Police Chief James Simonetti and Roxbury Mayor Jim Rilee, agreed with Palanchi's assessment: He was an extremely dedicated and selfless law enforcement officer.
Simonetti described him as "a consummate professional."