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Hampshire Police officers and staff set off today on a 220-mile charity bike ride to raise money for families of those who have died in the line of duty.
The UK Police Unity Tour is an annual long-distance ride which every year sees hundreds of cyclists converge on the UK Police Memorial at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Those taking part from Hampshire set off today (18 August) from the police training headquarters in Netley and aim to complete the challenge on Sunday (21 August).
Each rider cycles in memory of an individual officer who has died in the line of duty. The primary aim of the ride is to raise awareness of fallen police officers, but the event also raises money for Care of Police Survivors, a charity which supports the families left behind.
Deputy Chief Constable Ben Snuggs will be taking part in the event this year for the first time.
He said: “This is a very special event close to many of our hearts. I’m proud to ride in memory of all the fallen officers and to raise awareness for the amazing work that COPS does in supporting their bereaved families.
“I am proud to ride in honour of PC Jeffrey Whitcombe, who died on duty on 25 February 1987.
“There are so many families left behind by tragedies like this, which is why I’m honoured to be taking on this challenge with my colleagues.
“Please donate if you are able to. This challenge is not about any of us riders, it’s for the families of the colleagues we’ve lost serving our communities. We serve and ride for them.”
Hampshire Police Federation chair Zoe Wakefield will be cycling for the third time, this year in remembrance of Hampshire PC James Drew who died in a collision in 2009, when he was just 27 years old.
Zoe said: “It’s amazing to see so many of our Hampshire Constabulary colleagues here as we set off from Netley.
“This year we have 25 cyclists from Hampshire including one survivor, Martin Wiltshire, whose dad Malcolm died in a light aircraft crash while on duty in 1985.
“Martin was at the memorial service last year and was so inspired by our cycling that he decided to buy a bike, got himself training, and now this year he’s cycling it with us.
“COPS is an amazing charity that provides so much support to families of fallen officers.
“Cycling this tour is a way for us all to remember those fallen officers, and raise money for a very worthwhile charity.
“It is a tough three day ride but I’m looking forward to taking on the challenge once again and I can’t wait to get going.”
The Unity Tour started in the USA in 1997 and was taken up in the UK in 2013 with 25 riders taking part. This had risen to 420 cyclists in 2019 before the pandemic.
Last year the tour returned and managed to raise over £100,000.
The event has grown to such an extent that there will be 12 regional chapters riding from all over the UK this year.
To donate to the team’s fundraising efforts, please visit www.justgiving.com/team/UKPUT22