The Police Unity Tour, a 200-mile bicycle trip honoring police officers killed in the line of duty, kicked off Saturday at Marine Park. Police officers from Red Bank joined other members from across the state to commemorate their fallen colleagues.
NJ.com reported that police officers from as far as Michigan joined the group of law enforcement members from New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine to bike south to Washington, DC. The ride will end at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where it will pass its walls inscribed with fallen officers’ names.
Retired Red Bank Police Chief Mark Fitzgerald has already made the journey once and this will be his second Unity Tour. His family was at the kick off to cheer him on.
Millie Fitzgerald, Mark’s wife, said she knows her husband is in great shape and even at 62-years-old will have no problems completing the ride. “I am really proud of him,” she said. “He’s fit. I’m nervous but it’s something he wants to do, so I back him 100 percent.”
She added that her husband was wearing a bracelet to honor fallen NYPD officer Michael Williams. Williams was among eight other officers who were all killed when a police van crashed in the Bronx. When Fitzgerald arrives in D.C., he will give the bracelet to Williams’ father.
New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno participated in the ride, but left it in Long Branch. She once served as the sheriff of Monmouth County and wanted to show her support to the officers.
Addressing the crowd, Guadagno said, “This is not only about the five fallen officers in New Jersey, but about the unity you all have when you put on your uniform.”
According to NJ.com, Guadagno, along with other New Jersey officers, donned a sticker on her helmet with the badge number of State Trooper Marc K. Castellano. Castellano was struck and killed by a vehicle in 2010 while searching for a suspect.
A brief prayer at the kick off event was led by Pastor Terrence Porter of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Red Bank. “Today is not about the vision, Lord. Today is about unity,” he said.
According to statistics provided by the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, 80 officers have died in the line of duty in 2015 as of May 9. The total for 2014 was 117.