By Lt. Sarah Watson, AA/PIO
California Rehabilitation Center
Correctional Officer Bicente Gonzales and Correctional Lieutenant James Herrera at California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) this spring participated in the Police Unity Tour bicycle ride, among thousands of other law enforcement officers from across the United States.
The Police Unity Tour began in May 1997 and was organized by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department. He hoped to bring public attention to police officers who have died in the line of duty, honor their sacrifices, and raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum.
What started with 18 riders on a four-day fundraising bicycle ride from Florham Park, N.J., to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. has grown into nine chapters consisting of nearly 2,500 members nationwide who make the trip annually.
Officer Gonzales and Lieutenant Herrera rode with Chapter Seven Southern California Division on behalf of CRC Fallen Officer Gilbert Cortez and his K-9 Mattie, who lost their lives in a single-vehicle crash on March 25, 2013. This ride marked the fifth year anniversary that forever changed the lives of the Cortez family, friends, and those who work at CRC.
The three-day ride began in Somerset, N.J., and covered approximately 86 miles into Philadelphia. From Philadelphia, the riders were challenged with long rolling hills spanning over 106 miles to finish in Baltimore.
The final stretch from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. was nearly 50 miles, ending at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Upon completion, riders were welcomed with cheers and applause from families and friends of fallen officers.
First time rider Lt. Herrera said: “The ride was amazing! To ride on behalf of Officer Cortez, joining thousands of other police departments from across the United States was a real honor and an experience that will forever touch my heart.”
Riding for his third year, Officer Gonzales said: “Being a part of the CRC Honor Guard Team, this ride holds dear to my heart, honoring fallen officers and their families. I rode for Officer Cortez and the 21,543 officers whose names are etched on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall. We ride for those who died.”
Lt. Herrera and Officer Gonzales gave a special thanks to those who supported their ride through fundraising and donations: California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Chicano Correctional Workers Association, Novo Credit Union, Crisis Response Team #16, Corrections U.S.A., and all CRC staff who purchased shirts and donated money.
Warden Cynthia Y. Tampkins said: “I am honored and proud to work with staff who are so thoughtful and charitable beyond measure and without personal monetary compensation.