ROXBURY, NJ – With a former Roxbury police chief acting as their support unit, 16 Roxbury officers on Tuesday embarked on a bicycle ride to Washington, DC as part of the annual Police Unity Tour.

Their adventure began in Florham Park and took them past the place in Far Hills where one of their own was killed during last year’s Unity Tour. A memorial was set up at the spot along Route 202 where retired Roxbury Police Lt. Joe Franklin crashed during the 2016 event.

The Roxbury Police Honor Guard stood at attention at the crash site and Roxbury’s riders were allowed to take the lead as the tour approached the scene, said Roxbury Police Chief Marc Palanchi. He said a ghost bike – a bicycle painted white and placed at the site where cyclists die in accidents – was situated at the site.

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“They stopped traffic and the riders came by very slow and saluted him going by,” said Palanchi. “There had to be a thousand riders. They went by very slow, which was ironic because that’s the fast part of the course … People were playing taps. His family was standing there … It was a nice tribute.”

In the past, Roxbury fielded only several riders for the Unity Tour. This year’s contingent of 16 riders is far bigger than any before.

Helping them on the journey is former Roxbury Police Chief Mark Noll, who retired in 2011. He is driving a Roxbury Police Department pickup truck pulling a trailer carrying provisions, said Palanchi. The officers’ bicycles are stored in the trailer when they stop at hotels during the excursion, he said.

The Police Unity Tour’s purpose is to raise awareness about law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. It also raises money, for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum, by making participants secure pledges from donors.

The officers are scheduled to arrive in Washington, DC on May 12.