RED BANK – It will be a long ride for a good cause that six members of the borough’s police department and a retired chief will be undertaking next Friday.
“Our motto is ‘We Ride for Those Who Died,’ and it’s important to show our support,” Patrolman John Camarca said.
Camarca will be joined May 9-12 by Chief Darren McConnell, retired Chief Mark Fitzgerald, investigators Jorge Torres and James DePonte and patrolmen Paul Perez and Michael Zadlock. The men will use vacation time and join an estimated 1,700 or more fellow police officers from around the country participating in this year’s Police Unity Tour. The bicycle tour will take the officers to Washington, D.C. to honor law enforcement members who were killed in the line of duty.
Camarca, who took part in last year’s event, found the experience so inspirational that his colleagues decided to participate this year.
Striking much closer to home but separate from the unity tour, department officers have agreed to participate in a May 8 ride from Red Bank to Brielle to raise money for the McCarthy Children’s Fund that will help the children of Red Bank Police Chief Stephen McCarthy who lost his battle with cancer last fall.
Patrick P. Montuore, an officer with the Florham Park Police Department, established the Police Unity Tour in 1997, when he and 17 riders took the four-day bike tour to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in the nation’s capital to attend a ceremony that honors officers who have died in the line of duty. The riders also raised about $18,000 for that first year’s efforts. This year those who ride are expected to raise $1.72 million for the National Law Enforcement Officers Fund. Since its inception, the event has contributed $14 million to the fund, according to its website.
One of the goals of the tour is to raise enough money to construct a permanent law enforcement museum and to restore the memorial’s wall, cleaning and re-engraving and sealing the 18,983 names on it.
McConnell, who the borough council selected as chief following McCarthy’s death, sees his participation as part of the healing process.
“We had a really tough year last year. I thought this was a good way to build camaraderie,” he said.
When asked if he’s a cycling enthusiast, McConnell responded, “I guess I will be next week.”
Camarca then quickly advised his boss to “stock up on Advil.”
The Red Bank officers will be riding in memory of Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler, two Santa Cruz, Calif., officers killed in the line of duty in February 2013.
The borough riders will split up and join members from two of the organization’s chapters for the ride. Those from Chapter 1, a group that is expected to have about 30 riders from New Jersey, will depart from East Hanover. Riders from Chapter 10, who will number around 42, will leave from West Trenton.
Five of the seven Red Bank riders will be getting their bikes from Jonathan Erdelyi’s Red Bicycle Studio, 27 West Front St. Erdelyi is offering his support for the their participation in the tour, according to Torres.
All the teams are expected to meet in Annapolis, Maryland, where they will proceed, two-by-two, into Washington, D.C, according to Camarca. While there they will participate in the May 13 candlelight vigil at the memorial for the close of the ceremony.
Fitzgerald, who retired in January 2010, said, “The way the guys were talking about it, it was something I wanted to do.” He saw the tour as a chance to honor, not only those who were killed in the line of duty, but also four officers with whom he worked and who died of natural causes while department members.
“This cause is close to all of our hearts,” Torres said.