YORKTOWN, N.Y. – The National Law Enforcement Memorial has the unfortunate distinction of being the only monument in Washington, D.C., that will never be finished.
For that reason, law enforcement professionals around the country annually raise funds through the Police Unity Tour, a bicycle ride to the nation’s capital, to ensure that every fallen officer will be properly memorialized. Already, 21,183 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty throughout American history. The motto of the Police Unity Tour is, “We ride for those who died.”
“It makes you think,” said Yorktown Police Officer Samuel Sansone, who began participating in the Police Unity Tour six years ago. “They died doing the same job that we do. We go to work every day and we just assume that we’re going to go home at the end of our shift. [The people on that wall] probably had the same assumption. At some point, during their 8- or 12-hour tour, something went wrong.”
On May 9, Sansone will again embark on a four-day, 300-mile bicycle ride from Ground Zero in Manhattan to the memorial in Washington, D.C. For the first time, though, other members of the Yorktown Police Department will join him.
Officers Daniel Kaen and Samantha Guilbert will ride their bicycles alongside Sansone. Officer Jay Swart and Sgt. Paul Dillon will escort the cyclists on their motorcycles. Sgt. Mark Rapisarda will offer additional support by driving a pick-up truck with a trailer and tools.
The six participating officers are required to raise $2,000, or $12,000 total, but Dillon said the Yorktown team has a “go big or go home mindset.”
“We set a goal for ourselves to try to raise $20,000. We’re pretty ambitious,” Dillon said. “We are over half-way there already.”
All money raised through the Police Unity Tour is donated to maintaining the memorial, the park and the museum.
“Unfortunately every year, more names go on that wall,” Swart said. “So, the wall is ever-growing. It’s an unfortunate part of reality, so there constantly needs to be money raised to be able to put those names up but also to expand the wall and expand the memorial park.”
Dillon said raising money through charity instead of relying on tax dollars ensures that it remains a priority.
“Nobody looks out for us but us,” Dillon said. “We can control it that way. You never have to worry about it falling apart.”
The officers will travel about 60 miles the first day, 100 miles on the second and third days, and 40 miles on the final day. They will make stops in New Jersey, Delaware and Annapolis, Md. The plan is to arrive on May 12, in time for the start of National Police Week.
The memorial is located at 450 F St. NW. “Once we get there, there’s a ceremony where they present the memorial with the check from the Unity Tour,” Sansone said. “That night, our chapter usually has a dinner to celebrate. The following night, the 13th, there is a candlelight vigil.”
Swart, a 19-year veteran of the Yorktown Police Department, said visiting the memorial is a “career bucket list” item for any officer. Being able to do so with five of his colleagues, Swart said, made the trip a “no-brainer.”
“For me, at least, from the day that you enter the academy, you’re reminded about the dangers of the job and to remember those who died doing the same thing you did,” Swart said. “So, it was very much impressed upon you that before the end of your career, almost like a career bucket list, you’ve got to make it down to the Law Enforcement Memorial.”
Dillon shared similar motivations for wanting to participate in the Police Unity Tour.
“I’ve been a cop a long time,” Dillon said. “I, like everybody else, knows what we do is dangerous. We’re fortunate to work in a nice place, knock on wood; we’ve never lost anybody from here, thank God. But we make it a huge piece of what we do and the family that we belong to, to honor those who have fallen.”
Guilbert, who joined the Yorktown Police Department in 2017, said the law enforcement community is a family.
“Even in the short amount of time that I [have been an officer], I’ve seen officers who have died in the line of duty and I’ve been to services and funerals for them,” Guilbert said. “You just try to do whatever you can for people. They are your brothers and sisters and every little bit helps.”
Police Chief Robert Noble said he is proud of his officers.
“All of us at the Yorktown Police Department are very proud of the initiative of these officers and thank them for representing our agency in such a fine manner,” Noble said. “I pray they have a safe trip and a memorable experience.”
How to Donate
Contributions to the Yorktown Police Department fundraising team can be made at firstgiving.com/team/383230. The team has so far raised $12,785 of its $20,000 goal.