Bare hands gripping the bicycle handlebars as a steady rain pelted them, the trio of Nassau cops peddled more than 20 miles through bucolic Northport village, into Asharoken and Eatons Neck.
Among the officers on the Saturday morning ride in early April: a distance runner, a self-described lifelong athlete and acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who only started biking a few months ago.
“I hit a pothole,” a winded and rosy-cheeked Krumpter said upon arriving with a flat tire back at Woodbine Marina, after the 1 hour and 50-minute ride was over.
The front tire of the acting commissioner’s brand-new, sleek, black bicycle popped when he rode into an enormous street cavern about two miles from the end. But he still finished the route — albeit in last place.
The Long Island trek — which included climbing hills, dodging traffic and yes, potholes — was a practice run, as Krumpter and a contingent of 22 other Nassau cops plan to participate in this year’s Police Unity Tour.
The charity bicycle ride, about 300 miles over four days, starts May 9 for the New York chapter at the World Trade Center in Manhattan and ends at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C., where thousands of other police officers on bikes will converge.
In its 19th year, the tour raises money for the upkeep of the museum and memorial — a pair of curved marble walls with the inscription of the names of every law enforcement officer killed in the United States. Last year, the bike ride raised $2.1 million.
As thousands of officers make their way to the memorial in downtown Washington on May 12, the families of the fallen will, just as they do every year, line the streets in support, carrying signs and remembrances.
“It’s very, very emotional,” said Nassau Det. Sgt. Jo-Ann Distler, a 31-year department veteran in the district attorney’s squad who will bike the tour for the third time. “These are all families of law enforcement officers who have lost their lives and it really puts into perspective what we do ... we remember those that sacrifice their lives for what we do for a living.”
This year, the name of slain NYPD officer Brian Moore, a Plainedge resident, will be added to the D.C. memorial.
Five Nassau police officers have died in the line-of-duty since 2011 — and the Nassau contingent of the unity tour will have those fallen brothers in the forefront as they ride, said Nassau police Lt. Timothy Rooney, who’s on the board of New York’s 37 chapter, named for the number of Port Authority police officers killed on 9/11.
“It’s one of the few memorials that will never be finished,” Rooney said. “I’ve been there at different times throughout the years and you’d be surprised how many families of the fallen officers visit there. It’s a place of solace for them. ... It means a lot to the families.”
Nationally, there have been 30 line-of-duty deaths this year through April 3, up from the 27 that occurred in the same time last year, according to statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Last year, 123 law enforcement officers died in the line-of-duty.
Krumpter’s bike-riding debut marks the first time he, or any other Nassau commissioner, has participated in the tour.
“I always wanted to do the Unity Tour,” said Krumpter. “We in law enforcement always talk about never forgetting the fallen, people that made the ultimate sacrifice, and this bike rally truly demonstrates this. ... I always wanted to do it and now I’m in the physical condition to attempt this bike ride.”
Krumpter lost 70 pounds over the past year by exercising and cutting back on junk food, he said.
The impetus for slimming down the 49-year-old said: “Getting older; I wanna be a little more healthy.”
Distler and Det. Lt. George Darienzo, a 22-year veteran in the Fifth Squad, who joined Krumpter for the training ride, predicted the commissioner would be OK despite his lack of biking expertise.
“We saw him ride last week. He was blowing us all away,” said Darienzo, who spoke within earshot of Krumpter. “So, he’s in good shape.”
Distler said Krumpter’s participation was meaningful. “I think it sends a good message, that the head of our department supports the cause and is leading us.”