A Blaine police officer and two other Blaine residents with ties to the law enforcement are joining hundreds of police officers from around the nation to ride for the fallen.
Law Enforcement United organizes six different bike rides ranging in length from 250 to more than 1,000 miles. The shortest ride starts at Chesapeake, Virginia, while the longest ride begins in Chadwick, Georgia, but all riders end their journey in Washington D.C. Approximately 700 officers from around the nation are going to ride this year.
They visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial that bears the names of more than 20,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty, dating back to 1791.
Every rider wears at least one bracelet bearing the name of an officer, his or her department and their “end of watch” date. They also carry a flag that has this information and a picture that they give to family members able to attend the ceremony.
The riders may be sore after such long bike rides, but Greg Levendoski said, “The pain is nothing compared to what (the family) is going through.”
A candlelight vigil on the National Mall takes place the evening after the riders arrive in Washington D.C.
These are just a couple of the events leading up to the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service on May 15 at the U.S. Capitol.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which the date falls as Police Week.
Locally, the law enforcement agencies of Anoka County annually hold a memorial service for its fallen officers on this week. This year’s Anoka County Law Enforcement Memorial Service takes place at noon on May 17 at the Anoka County Government Center in Anoka.
The national memorial service dates back to 1982, but the first bike ride leading up to this week did not start until 2005, That was the over 1,000-mile ride from Georgia. Five other shorter rides were subsequently added in the following years with rides originating from Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. A Ruff Ride was added in 2012 to honor the fallen K9 officers.
Levendoski is a retired sergeant for the Roseville Police Department. This is his seventh year of being in the 250-mile ride for Timothy Bowe, a Minnesota State Trooper who was only 36 years old when killed on June 7, 1997. The two families met through their children’s ballet class and they became good friends.
He rides so Bowe and the more than 20,000 officers are never forgotten and because those on the ride are raising money for two important causes. They are the Officers Down Memorial Page (www.odmp.org) and Concerns of Police Survivors, which supports families of the fallen. One of COPS’s programs is a kids camp where children can meet their peers who can better understand what they are going through. There’s counseling but also traditional camp games and activities.
John Jorgensen, a Roseville police officer for 20 years and a Blaine resident, has also rode with Team Minnesota for this Law Enforcement United long-range bike ride.
The May 10-12 ride from Chesapeake, Virginia to Washington D.C. will be the first time that Coon Rapids resident Grant Breems is participating. Breems was with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office since 1994 and was hired by the Blaine Police Department in November 2016.
Breems has run marathons before, but long-distance biking was still new to him when he signed up for this 250-mile ride last August. He has trained with Jorgensen and Levendoski and the numerous other metro area officers participating in this ride.
Approximately 40 law enforcement personnel are on Team Minnesota, Breems said.
Jorgensen is riding for Sgt. Stephen Davenport, who was working for the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department in Texas when he was killed May 2, 2002. He was 35 years old.
Breems is riding for Michael Katherman, a 34-year-old San Jose police officer who was killed on June 14, 2016.
Breems and Jorgensen did not know these officers, but any officer wanting to honor of these fallen men and women are given a name to ride for if they do not have a personal connection.
They do this “to support the families and let them know we won’t forget,” Breems said.
These three riders have already raised enough money to participate in the ride, but are encouraging donations to Law Enforcement United National to help with ongoing efforts for COPS and the Officers Down Memorial Page.
To donate, visit www.leunited.org.