BY KATHY CHANG
EDISON — Local officers participated in the 2017 Police Unity Tour last week.
Fourteen Edison Township police officers and two Woodbridge Township police officers joined a large contingent of other officers across the state as they hopped on their bikes and pedaled the four-day 300-mile trek from New York City to Washington, D.C. in honor of their fallen members in blue.
The tour, which began at the National 9/11 Memorial at “Ground Zero” in New York City on May 9, made a pit stop home for Edison’s fourteen officers as they finished the first leg of their ride.
On hand to greet the riders were the families of two local police officers who died serving the Edison community.
Officer Frank Papaianni was shot and killed as he responded to a 1971 holdup at a Menlo Park Mall bank and Officer Michael Dudash died in a motorcycle accident on Route 27 in October 1924, when Edison was still known as Raritan Township.
Also on hand to greet riders were Police Chief Thomas Bryan, the command staffs from the police and fire departments, the police Honor Guard and municipal employees who gathered at Lake Papaianni Park across from the Municipal Complex.
“Police officers across our nation and state and right here in Edison put their lives at risk each day to protect the communities they serve,” Bryan said. “The annual Police Unity Tour honors those officers [who] made the ultimate sacrifice. It is an honor to have so many of our officers participate.”
Edison Mayor Thomas Lankey said the Edison officers riding in the tour are a credit to the badge and a source of pride for their community.
“I am certainly proud of them for their dedication to service and for making this effort,” he said.
The Edison police officers participating include Lt. Sal Filannino and Lt. Keith Stein, Sergeants David Tingle, Douglas Turner; Detectives Joseph Chonka and Rudy Innocenti; and Officers Jennifer Aldahondo, Fred Brown, John Cercatore, Timothy Farrell, Michael Goldfarb, Michael Schwarz, Richard Westover and retired Officer Michael Ciampi.
Officers Brian Hudick and Ed Jankowsky accompanied Edison’s police bicyclists to provide support on their trek to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C.
Woodbridge Police Officers Lee Scarano and Mark Hecht, who are both training and range officers for the department, participated in the ride. They contributed nearly $4,000 to the tour.
Woodbridge Police Capt. Roy Hoppock said Scarano and Hecht are recognized for a job well done.
“Knowing that they wanted to participate in this year’s Police Unity Tour, Officers Hecht and Scarano often rode their bikes to prepare for the 300 mile ride,” he said. “By taking part in the tour, our police department can carry on the memory of our two fallen officers .”
The Woodbridge Police Department lost Police Officer Alvin Williams in 1979 and Police Officer Joseph Lewis in 1932.
The Police Unity Tour’s arrival in Washington D.C. on May 12 marks the unofficial start of National Police Week, which runs from May 15-21.
In May 1997, the Police Unity Tour was organized by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department, with the hope of bringing public awareness of police officers who have died in the line of duty and to honor their sacrifices.
The tour is expected to raise more than $2 million for families of officers killed in the line of duty.