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Police Unity Tour to make stop here today

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By Jenny Hartley

A group of bicyclists raising awareness of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty will make a stop in Lancaster today, May 3.

The Police Unity Tour began nationally on May 9. Bicyclists on the tour will arrive in Washington, D.C., on May 12 for a ceremony as part of National Police Week.

The tour was organized in 1997 by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park, N.J., Police Department, with the hope of honoring and bringing public awareness of police officers who have died in the line of duty.

The ride started with 18 riders on a four-day, fundraising bicycle ride from Florham Park to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., which raised $18,000.

In 2008, 1,100 made the ride and were able to donate $1.25 million to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The tour’s motto is, “We Ride for Those Who Died.”

A police escort will bring 20 cyclists on the tour into Lancaster County along S.C. 903 into the city of Lancaster from the county line.

Lancaster County deputies and Lancaster police officers will participate in the escort, said Lois Rao.

Rao’s son, Mike Rao, a state trooper, died in 2002 after being hit by a car while assisting a motorist.

Since then, she and her husband, Sal, have been active in police survivor efforts and are members of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS).

The Raos spearheaded the construction of a law enforcement memorial to honor Lancaster County officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial was dedicated last year.

The bicyclists coming into the county will hold a brief ceremony at Lancaster’s law enforcement memorial behind the Lancaster County Courthouse.

The ceremony is expected to start at 12:45 p.m., Lois Rao said. Local law enforcement officers and the public are invited to attend.

COPS will provide lunch for the cyclists at the Lancaster Fire Department on East Arch Street.

They’re expected to get back on the road at 2:30 p.m. They’ll receive a police escort from the city along U.S. 521 to S.C. 5, where they will enter York County.

“They want very little attention because it’s not about them,” Lois Rao said. “They’re doing it for the officers and the survivors. I think it’s very touching.”

Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at jarnold@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151