The 22nd annual Police Unity Tour got underway May 9, with six Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Officers from the Bureau of Corrections – five pedaling – bound for the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., nearly 300 miles away.
Chapter 1 of the Police Unity Tour left East Hanover at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, with Bureau of Corrections Lieutenant Michael Schweizer, Corrections Corporals Bill Lanfrank and Pete Lohmus, and Corrections Officers Eric Brauner and Al Guerriero joining the pack of more than 400 high-energy bicyclists making the four-day trip out of a sense of duty to honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
Corrections Officer Frank Corrente is driving a support vehicle – a Morris County Sheriff’s Office truck – to assist riders and help repair bicycles
This year’s Police Unity Tour is the first for Lieutenant Schweizer and Officers Guerriero and Corrente, and its start coincided with Lieutenant Schweizer’s birthday.
“I wouldn’t celebrate my birthday any other way. It’s going to be a good time and it’s for a good cause,” said Lieutenant Schweizer, whose wife, Heather, and parents, Howie and Jane Schweizer, saw him off in East Hanover.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Bureau of Corrections Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Bureau of Law Enforcement Undersheriff Mark Spitzer and nearly a dozen officers from the Bureau of Corrections were also in East Hanover to give the team a warm sendoff.
“I wish them all a safe trip and I appreciate the sense of duty they have toward all law enforcement officers who have died while serving. A tremendous event like the Police Unity Tour strengthens the bonds between officers who perform a dangerous job every day,” Sheriff Gannon said.
The first Police Unity Tour – which has grown into a large-scale event that draws about 2,500 law enforcement bicyclists to Washington, D.C. – occurred in 1997. It was started by then-Florham Park Police Patrolman Patrick Montuore, who wanted to ensure that fallen officers were not forgotten.
In memory of Florham Park Detective Francis A. Dailey and Patrolman Robert Hauptman, who were killed in a small aircraft crash in July 1975 while on a reconnaissance flight searching for a marijuana crop, the now-retired Florham Park Police Chief Montuore and 17 other bicyclists pedaled to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. in May 1997 in their honor.
The concept took hold, and 22 years later, there are 9 chapters of the Police Unity Tour and at least 2,500 members. Collectively, they have donated at least $25 million dollars to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Former Chief Montuore was in East Hanover Thursday for the start of Chapter 1’s trip, rallying riders and wishing them a safe journey. Other Police Unity Tour riders around the country are starting from points closer to their homes but all riders will converge on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, May 12.
The motto of the Police Unity Tour is “We Ride For Those Who Died.”
As riders and their support crews gathered in East Hanover, the atmosphere was full of camaraderie and embraces. Rockaway Township, Florham Park and Mount Olive Township Police Departments were among the other local law enforcement agencies with riders on the tour, and riders were escorted on their way by a convoy of 36 police motorcycles from departments in northern New Jersey.