A Riverton police officer is hoping to raise enough money to participate in this year’s Police Unity Tour, a 200-mile bike race that raises awareness and money for fallen police officers and their families.
“Every year, I said I was going to do it,” said Officer Jeff Walker, of West Deptford. “This year, I finally got to the meetings and then started taking the steps to apply.”
A Riverton officer now in his fifth year here, Walker loves the idea of the Unity Tour.
“It’s a great idea,” he said. “You can’t replace someone’s life, but you can at least try to help [their family] along.”
The Police Unity Tour started in 1997 in Florham Park, Morris County with 18 riders raising $18,000. Last year, 1,500 rode to Washington DC, with 200 from the South Jersey group. More than $1.6 million was raised for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The bike ride starts locally and ends after a May weekend of riding at Washington DC where the names of fallen officers who died the previous year are etched onto a monument. Their families are invited for a special ceremony.
There were 21 officers who died in the line of duty in 2012, according to the Police Unity Tour website.
In 1976, Riverton Officer Thomas Whitelock died in the line of duty after a suspect shot him and retired Palmyra Lt. Howard Norcross while the two responded to a call in Riverton.
Whitelock’s legacy—Norcross said he jumped in front of him when the suspect shot—lives on locally, especially with members of the Riverton Police Department.
“It definitely hits home,” Walker said. “You hear about a town or a police officer in another state. This is actually in the town that I work in. It was another factor to put me over the edge to do it.”
Walker will start the race in Delran, where that department has six officers participating. But their ride is a little longer than directly to Washington D.C. The riders are starting a day earlier to bike to Egg Harbor, with several stops—including the Whitelock memorial in Riverton—along the way.
On May 10, they will make their weekend trek down to DC. Walker’s total trip will be more than 250 miles. He’s already begun his training.
“In January, I started running to get myself back into shape,” he said. “Then I’ll start training on the bike.”
He’ll start hitting the bike harder in March or April to prepare for the May race. In the meantime, he’s reaching out to local businesses to help raise money for his efforts. He needs $1,700 but anything more raised goes to the efforts, so it’s “bonus money,” he said.
For those wishing to donate, send your tax-deductible donation to Riverton Police Association, Att. Patrolman Walker—Unity Tour, 501 Fifth Street, Riverton, NJ, 08077.