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February 18, 2014

Ferndale resident to ride in Police Unity Tour for fallen officers

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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Chris Powell, a Ferndale resident and investigator at the Wayne State University Police Department, will be bicycling 320 miles in May as part of the Police Unity Tour.

FERNDALE — When Jackson Police Officer Jim Bonneau was killed in the line of duty in 2010, it hit home for Ferndale resident Chris Powell.

Powell, an investigator at the Wayne State University Police Department, had known Bonneau since they were classmates at the police academy, and the two had remained friends after graduating.

Since attending Bonneau’s memorial service, Powell has made an effort to attend the funeral of all fallen public safety members in Michigan. On May 9, Powell will expand his support by riding in the Police Unity Tour on the East Coast.

The 320-mile bicycle ride will take Powell and the rest of the participants from Florham Park, N.J., to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“Jim’s death and the outpouring of support for him, his family and agency left a lasting impression,” Powell, 32, said. “I can’t imagine missing a service and the chance to pay my respects.”

In total, Powell said about 2,000 people will be riding in the tour in memory of the 111 officers who were killed in the line of duty in 2013 across the nation, including three from Michigan.

On the first day, the riders will ride 60 miles, followed by 100 miles on the second and third days. On the final day, the riders will finish up the final 60 miles to end at the memorial and officially start National Police Week.

“I’m excited to be riding with the tour for the first time,” Powell said. “This seemed like a natural move after years of attending officer funerals and traveling to police week memorial festivities in (Washington, D.C.)”

Being part of the ride means each participant has to raise money to not only pay for his or her travel expenses, but also to make a donation to the memorial fund, totaling at least $1,750. Each year, about $1.5 million is donated to the fund.

To help raise his money, Powell will be holding a bowling fundraiser Feb. 22 at Garden Bowl, 4120 Woodward Ave., in Detroit. Tickets are $20 and include two hours of bowling, pizza and shoe rental.

Registration is at 1:30 p.m. and bowling begins at 2 p.m. The event will feature raffle items and prizes.

“This is my fourth year going to police week, and it is just a different caliber of respect by doing this ride and riding for the families and their memory,” Powell said. “Everybody goes there to pay honor to everyone that passed away the previous year, and this ride is just another thing to do to show camaraderie and meet people and hear their stories. It just kind of re-centers you.”

The training for the 32-mile ride won’t be too rigorous for Powell, as he was a mountain bike officer before becoming an investigator. His fellow officers at Wayne State, Collin Rose and Tory Tederington, will join him on the ride.

Rose said he has never really been into biking, but he is excited for the chance to pay his respects by participating in the ride.

“I went to the D.C. memorial last year and met everybody that did the ride, and it piqued my interest, and doing the ride this year seems like a culmination of all of that,” he said. “A lot of people are forgotten pretty quickly in this day and age, and for these officers to be remembered for a while is important, especially for their friends and family. Plus, all of the money we raise goes directly to the memorial fund and directly to a good cause.”

After Bonneau passed away, Powell was able to meet his friend’s family when Bonneau’s name was put on the memorial, and Powell has remained close to them over the years.

And while it has been a few years, Powell said his first ride would still be in memory of his lost friend.

“When we went to the national memorial, my buddy’s mom and I got to be very close over the years, and we exchange cards for birthdays and Christmas, and I don’t know if that happens if I had not gone to the memorial when his name was put up,” he said. “He is part of the reason I am riding and part of the reason I am going. I want to do this in Jim’s memory.”

For information on the Police Unity Tour, visit www.policeunitytour.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.