2017-04-13 / Front Page

‘We ride for those who died’

Policeman readies for trip to D.C.
BY TIM RIEL


Jamestown patrolman Ron Jacobson at the Ryan Bourque memorial in front of the police station on Conanicus Avenue. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Jamestown patrolman Ron Jacobson at the Ryan Bourque memorial in front of the police station on Conanicus Avenue. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN He’ll be riding the same distance to reach the same destination on the same bicycle, but for Ron Jacobson, nothing will be the same.

As he prepares for his sixth consecutive Police Unity Tour, Jacobson, an eight-year veteran of the Jamestown police force, will ride 320 miles to raise awareness for the men and women killed in the line of duty. But there is one lost friend who will make this tour more emotional than ever.

Although Ryan Bourque was killed driving home from his shift and not while working, Jacobson will honor his ex-colleague on his bike’s license plate and in his heart. Nearly a year after the Coventry native’s tragic death, Jacobson, who was Bourque’s field-training officer, chokes up while talking about it.

“It’s still pretty hard,” said Jacobson, a father of four, including a daughter who is a year younger than Bourque was when he died. “Ryan was a good kid. Smart. He was going to be a good officer because he loved the community. All he wanted to do was help.”


Jacobson at the Boston Neck park-and-ride Tuesday afternoon. On nice days, he rides to work from West Greenwich to train for the ride. He does, however, get a lift across the bridge. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Jacobson at the Boston Neck park-and-ride Tuesday afternoon. On nice days, he rides to work from West Greenwich to train for the ride. He does, however, get a lift across the bridge. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN The charity ride, now in its 21st year, is held annually during National Police Week. The motto, “We ride for those who died,” is self-explanatory. The tour started in 1997 when 18 riders raised $18,000 while peddling from New Jersey to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington. Since then, it has exploded — in 2016, more than 2,200 members raised about $2.5 million, which was donated to the museum that currently recognizes nearly 21,000 victims.

“I’ve done charity rides my whole life, but I really want to contribute here,” Jacobson said. “It means a lot to me to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Jacobson, 46, of West Greenwich, will ride with the founding chapter. They will start May 9 in Florham Park, N.J., the same place the tour began more than two decades ago. The ride is controlled, Jacobson said, with members riding two-by-two following a pace car traveling about 15 mph.

From there, Jacobson and his teammates will ride 60 miles to the Jersey town of Somerset, honoring fallen officers along the way by peddling past their former stations. The chapter also will coast by the New Jersey State Police barracks with “Taps” playing in the backdrop.

After resting overnight, the riders are back on the road en route to Wilmington, Del., a distance of 100 miles. The following day, they ride another 100 miles from Wilmington to Annapolis, Md., which is one of Jacobson’s alltime favorite routes.

“We ride through western Delaware into eastern Maryland, past farmland and along the coast of the Chesapeake,” he said. “It’s pretty beautiful. There’s great scenery and nice roads.”

The following morning, however, is the tour’s culmination. “That’s the day that really matters,” he said.

Jacobson and his chapter leave Maryland on May 12 en route to the nation’s capital, where they will convene at RFK Stadium with the other eight chapters. With thousands of riders united, a 4-mile-long line of cyclists will traverse the final few miles to the national memorial, where they will peddle through the hallowed paths surrounded by walls covered with names. Each of those names, Jacobson said, represents a man or woman who died while vowing to serve and protect.

After spending the night in Washington, members of the tour will dress in their Class A uniforms and escort survivors during a candlelight vigil.

While emotions will run high for Jacobson because of his friend’s untimely death — Bourque was 24 when he was killed by a wrong-way drunken driver last May on Interstate 95 — another man, Joseph Franklin, also will be on his mind.

During the first day of last year’s tour, Jacobson’s chapter was cruising downhill in Morristown, N.J., going nearly 30 mph, when Franklin’s front tire nipped the bicycle in front of him. The retired Roxbury lieutenant was thrown from his bike and died two days later from injuries sustained in the 12-bike pileup.

“I saw it from the corner of my eye,” Jacobson said. “I was almost in it.”

Police week will certainly be an emotional time for Jacobson. While it’s a somber tradition, he believes showing respect to the 21,000 dead Americans who gave their lives to law enforcement makes it worth the emotional toll. Although Bourque’s name won’t be tacked onto that wall in Washington, it will ring out for 320 miles from the back of Jacobson’s bike.

How to donate

A minimum pledge of $1,800 is required for each rider. To support Ron Jacobson’s efforts: n Deliver a check to police station n Visit the Policy Unity Tour website, choose Chapter 1 from the right-hand menu and “Sponsor a Rider” on the left side of that page

Checks should be made out to: Police Unity Tour

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