Officer looks to raise money for families of fallen policemen
Interstate 95 in Rhode Island begins in Pawtucket when it crosses over from South Attleboro, Mass., and stretches to its southernmost point in Hopkinton, just before disappearing into Connecticut. It’s slightly over 42 miles long.
From May 9 to May 12, Jamestown Police Officer Ronald Jacobson will peddle his bicycle to the equivalent of more than seven full trips of Rhode Island’s stretch of I-95 – and he’s doing it all for charity.
“I’ve always ridden my bike for charity in some form or another,” said Jacobson, 41. “I like to ride quite a bit and I’m good at it, so I decided to put it to good use and ride for charity.”
Jacobson, who will celebrate his three-year anniversary on the island’s police force next month, has committed to participate in the Police Unity Tour, a 320-mile bike trip that will take him from Florham Park, N.J., to the country’s capital. The goal of the tour is to raise awareness for police offi cers who were killed in the line of duty, and to support the families who tragically lost their loved ones while they were serving and protecting.
The Police Unity Tour began in 1997 when 18 officers took the trek from Jersey to Washington, D.C. Fifteen years later, the number of participating officers was more than 1,200. Twenty of those offi cers were Rhode Islanders. This year, 1,500 officers are expected to make the trip, 25 of those coming from the Ocean State.
According to Lt. Pat McMahon of the Charlestown Police Department, who is also the support coordinator for the Rhode Island Contingent of the Police Unity Tour, the goal this year is $30,000 from Rhode Island riders. Jacobson hopes he can help the group meet that number.
Biking wasn’t always a hobby for Jacobson. The father of four began riding for no other reason than to get from Point A to Point B. “I started biking because it was a necessity,” he said. “I was commuting to work. I didn’t have my own car when I was younger, and since then I’ve just grown into it.”
Although biking began as a basic need for Jacobson, it has since developed into a way for him to do something that he enjoys and at the same time use it to raise money and awareness for what he considers worthy causes. This year certainly won’t be his first charitable cruise – he has ridden in 13 Bike MS events to benefit multiple sclerosis and has raised more than $16,000.
But the upcoming journey will be a new challenge for Jacobson and his Trek 5000. The Bike MS route covers 150 miles over two days. The Police Unity Tour spans 320 miles in four days, including back-to-back “century rides.” A century bike ride is 100 miles.
“The furthest I’ve ever ridden on any day is a century, and there are two in this event, one right after the other,” he said. The first day, May 9, riders will leave New Jersey and travel 60 miles. The next two days will be grueling, covering 200 miles, and the officers will finish off the trip with a tranquil 60 miles on May 12.
“This is motivation to train, knowing that I have a big date coming up,” he said. “I don’t think 320 miles is anything to sneeze at.”
So how long does is usually take to finish a century? “At the pace they think we’re going to ride, from 13 to 15 mph, you’re looking at six or seven hours. We rest every 20 to 25 miles because we obviously have to refuel, we have to eat. But we don’t want to stay stagnant for too long because our muscles will stiffen up – maybe 10 to 15 minutes at each rest stop.”
When the group of 1,500 offi- cers reaches the nation’s capital, they will commemorate National Law Enforcement Memorial Day. A vigil will be held for the families of police officers that were killed while on patrol. Jacobson said it’s an honor to be able to meet the children, wives, husbands and parents of the fallen heroes. Each deceased officer will have his or her name inscribed on a monument, the only of its kind in the U.S. that actively adds names each year. “I’ve never taken part in it, but from what I understand, it’s quite the experience,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson heard about the Police Unity Tour through contacts at the police academy in Lincoln, where he is a 2009 alum. Jacobson decided to join the academy after a career in the automotive industry, where he was a parts manager for more than 15 years. The struggling economy – especially in the automotive business – made him contemplate a career change.
He said he always wanted to be a police officer, and decided to study law enforcement at the Community College of Rhode Island. He graduated with a 3.8 GPA and earned his associate degree.
Jacobson likes the small-town feel of policing in Jamestown. He has always been involved in the community, whether it be coaching sports teams or leading the Cub Scouts. He thinks that residents of the island appreciate community service, and he feels welcome here.
“I think that 99.9 percent of the residents in Jamestown appreciate what we do,” Jacobsen said. “That’s a big help, because if you treat the public with respect, you’ll get respect in return. In other communities, sometimes the police are looked at like they’re the bad guys, whereas here, I don’t think we are looked at like that. We really try to take care of the community the best we can.”
Although no officer that Jacobson has worked with has been killed in the line of duty, there was a scare early in his career. In the spring of 2009, North Kingstown Police Officer Travis Maiato was shot with a .40 caliber weapon. Fortunately, Maiato was wearing a vest and survived the attack.
“I was at the academy at the time,” said Jacobson. “He was one of our physical fitness trainers. So it kind of hit us hard, because we knew him personally.”
Jacobson, who was born in Warwick and grew up in Coventry, currently lives in West Greenwich with his wife, Becky, and their four children: Kayln, 17, Carissa, 15, Andrew, who turned 13 on Monday, and Austin, 10. He said his daughters don’t ride, but his sons have shown some interest. Also, Becky has recently begun riding. His family will drive down to Washington, D.C., and greet him as he crosses the finish line.
Jacobson said he knows about a dozen of the 25 Rhode Island offi- cers that will join him on their ride to Washington, but no one else on the Jamestown Police Department was drawn to the 320-mile excursion. “Nobody has really expressed any interest in it,” he laughed. “They all kind of think I’m nuts for doing it.”
Jacobson said there are many ways to donate to the Police Unity Tour, which he added is tax deductible. Donors can send a check to the Police Unity Tour, Rhode Island Contingent, P.O. Box 4103, Middletown, RI 02842. Donations can also be made directly to Jacobson or online at riput.org. (Checks should be made out to the Police Unity Tour. The tax ID number is 22-3530541.)
As for the other special race close to Jacobson’s heart – the Bike MS event – it will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, and the route will include trips over the Newport and Jamestown bridges. Unfortunately, Jacobson will have to miss the historic event. Kayln, who will attend the University of Rhode Island in the fall, is graduating from high school on the second day of the two-day ride in June.
“I would like to do it, but my daughter is graduating on June 16,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”