In 2000, a group of determined Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Police officers, led by Dets. Tony Wood (ret.) and Ron Tetreau (ret.), came up with a unique way to support fallen law enforcement officers and their families--to walk from Rhode Island to Washington DC. They called the mission simply, “COPSWALK,” and stepped off toward the hallowed ground of the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial. Thirteen years later, the Woonsocket Police COPSWALK is still on the move...and gaining stride.
There are two main objectives of the WPD COPSWALK. Our primary purpose is to raise awareness to the sacrifices made by law enforcement officers across the country. By walking or (more often) running on secondary roads from Rhode Island to Washington DC, we are given the precious opportunity to spread the message of honor and valor that is so often taken for granted by those we serve. The high visibility and uniqueness of our event draws attention and curiosity that often leads to conversation and, more often than not, a new appreciation for law enforcement officers. We believe that helping civilians to understand the magnitude of the sacrifices being made by officers and their families is essential to establishing the community support needed to fight crime in this age.
The second objective of the WPD COPSWALK is to raise funds for the national organization, “Concerns of Police Survivors.” As you know, this wonderful organization of people is dedicated to helping families rebuild their lives after the unthinkable occurs; we cannot imagine a more worthy group to support. Our mission is funded largely through donations received by the generous people of the Greater Woonsocket community, which includes northern RI and southern Massachusetts. To date, COPSWALK has generated over $90,000 for police survivors. With $20,000 raised in the 2012 campaign, the Woonsocket Police Department was the highest single-law enforcement agency donors to C.O.P.S—a significant accomplishment for a small agency of 101 officers.
The Woonsocket Police COPSWALK is a multi-day, relay-style, round-the-clock journey. Typically comprised of 12-13 officers, the team is divided into rotation groups of three. Each rotation covers twelve miles and there is a group on the move at all times. Naturally, safety is our primary concern. There is a single runner/walker guarded by a trailing safety cruiser with emergency lights. The third member of the group is the navigator. The runner/walker completes a 4-mile leg and the group rotates positions. Upon completion of the group’s twelve mile leg, they arrive at the staging area for the rest of the team who has been resting and refueling. Without delay, a new rotation group departs and the support vehicles move down the pre-planned route another twelve miles. The trek continues for 3-4 days until we reach the city limits of Washington DC—approximately 450 miles--stopping only when severe weather or other hazardous conditions make the effort too dangerous. (There are a few short portions that cannot be covered by foot in accordance with local traffic regulations.)
We are so proud of what we have accomplished through COPSWALK over the last thirteen years—but the mission is far from complete. Last year saw a decline in line of duty deaths but even the loss of one hero is too many. The loss of our law enforcement heroes mean more law enforcement families are in need of our help. With this on our hearts and minds, on May 9th, 2013 the COPSWALK team will step off toward Washington DC once again. Thank you, stay safe, and we’ll see you in D.C.!
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