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National Police Week: Honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

SHOUT OUT: More than 1,700 members of the Police Unity Tour were among those preparing for tonight’s 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., an event expected to draw more than 25,000 people.

The unity tour participants — who’ve come from various points around the globe — arrived in the nation’s capital yesterday afternoon after making the trek to the memorial on bicycles, leaving from six “spokes” along the East Coast.

As always, loved ones of those who died in the line duty and others cheered on the cyclists as they made their way into the memorial, some accompanied by motorcycle escorts — always a highlight of National Police Week.

Once inside, officers sought the names of fallen colleagues — among them, Fair Lawn Police Officer Mary Ann Collura, who was killed 10 years ago by a crazed gunman as she rushed to the aid of another officer.

Along the wall, many left photos, notes and other tributes sheathed in plastic to protect them from the elements.

“We need to make sure that the sacrifices that were made by our departed brothers and sisters in law enforcement are never forgotten and to make sure the loved ones of those brothers and sisters left behind know that they are not fogotten,” Bogota Police Chief John C. Burke Sr. told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Tonight’s candlelight vigil will honor 321 officers whose names were etched into the memorial’s stone wall this year.

These include 120 killed in the line of duty in 2012 — a decrease from 169 a year earlier.

“It’s certainly is a tragedy for those departments, those families that have lost a loved one and our national grieves for them as well,” Craig Floyd, the fund’s chairman and chief executive, told . “However, the good news — the silver lining, if you will — is that number is the lowest fatality figure we’re had since 1959.”

Floyd said he believes that’s because “more officers are better trained, better equipped and more are wearing their bullet resistant vests.”

He cited a recent Police Executive Research Forum study that showed more than 90 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies requiring their officers to wear body armor while on patrol or in potentially dangerous circumstances.

“We know that over the last 25 years or so, more than 3,000 law enforcement professionals’ lives have been saved because they were wearing their body armor,” he said, adding that it has helped in car crashes and other high-impact circumstances that don’t involve gunfire.

The ride so far has raised an estimated $1.7 million for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which raises awareness of the sacrifices police make to keep citizens safe and secure.

It will be the largest amount ever raised through the event, co-founded in 1997 by Florham Park Police Chief Patrick Montuore, Fair Lawn Police Sgt. Richard Schultz and 17 fellow officers from North Jersey — who at the time carried an initial gift of $18,000.

Among those who made the 330-mile trek from North Jersey this year were dozens from area departments. Their motto: “We Ride For Those Who Died.”

(Fair Lawn Officer Michael O’Brien is in Washington, D.C. this weekend and took the accompanying photos.)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be tonight’s keynote speaker. Also expected to speak are Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napoliono and Madeline Neumann, president of Concerns of Police Survivors.

Other highlights this week include the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in front of the Capitol Building on Wednesday.

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