By ARDEN BASTIA Peter Leclerc has been a Cranston police officer for the past 19 years, and this year will be his eighth year participating in the Police Unity Tour, a 300-mile bike ride in honor of those officers killed in the line of duty. The ride
Peter Leclerc has been a Cranston police officer for the past 19 years, and this year will be his eighth year participating in the Police Unity Tour, a 300-mile bike ride in honor of those officers killed in the line of duty.
The ride begins in northern New Jersey, finishes in Washington, D.C., and raises funds to support the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum, or NLEOM.
The ride began in 1997, when 18 police officers rode their bikes 300 miles from New Jersey to D.C. in support for fallen colleagues. Today, the annual event is in its 25th year, and now raises money that goes towards maintaining the memorial.
The memorial, located in the middle of Judiciary Square, bears the names of 22,000 fallen officers. It is currently the only living memorial in Washington, meaning that names of officers are continually added. The event coincides with Police Week, which runs May 9-15.
The National Memorial, in conjunction with Concerns of Police Survivors, or COPS, brings surviving families of fallen officers to Washington, where they are given the opportunity to take part in group counseling sessions.
“I started this in 2011, when my college friend Joe McGarry was killed in the line of duty,” Leclerc said. “I remember going to the funeral, and it was very moving to see a colleague and friend like that. I continue to this day to ride in Joe’s honor.”
McGarry was shot and killed in the line of duty on Dec. 29, 2002, while working for the Myrtle Beach Police Department in South Carolina. Leclerc was present when McGarry’s name was added to the memorial, and described it as a powerful and emotional event.
The ride includes both cyclists and motorists from all over the country. “The first four years I did this, I rode the bicycle. In 2016, my partner and I asked if we could take our department motorcycles down,” said Leclerc in an interview.
The motorcycle officers are responsible for stopping traffic and blocking roads to allow the cyclists to safely ride through. This year, Leclerc and his partner, Inspector Andy DeCosta, will be part of the motorcycle brigade.
The first day of the ride is roughly 60 miles to southern New Jersey. The second day is just shy of 100 miles, ending in Wilmington, Delaware. The third day is 100 miles to Annapolis, Maryland, and the final day is another 40 to 60 miles to D.C.
Leclerc says his wife and two children don’t usually join him on the trip, and are more apprehensive this year, considering the recent violent events in Washington. Despite the threats, he is confident the group of about 2,100 cyclists, supporters and motorists will be met with respect and safety.
“There’s always a worry, we go through some pretty rough areas,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are those that are anti-law enforcement, but there are more people out there who support us.”
In order to participate in the Police Unity Tour, Leclerc must first raise $2,000. A small portion of these funds go toward meals and lodging along the ride, but the majority supports NLEOM. He is currently accepting contributions, addressed to the Police Unity Tour – Rhode Island Contingent, at the Cranston Police Department, 5 Garfield Ave., Cranston, RI 02920.
Leclerc is more than proud to be participating in the Police Unity Tour.
“There are people out there who are doing good things and there are people who deserve to be remembered,” he said. “This is to honor the officers who gave their life to protect their communities. It’s a tough job; it’s been especially a little more trying these past few years. We can only hope that the future is a little bit brighter.”