WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — For the sixteenth year in a row, members of the Woonsocket Police Department are walking from headquarters to Washington, D.C., stepping off this week. The 400-mile hike has become a tradition to help the families of fallen officers.
“CopsWalk,” organized by the national nonprofit Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), honors officers killed in the line of duty.
From Dallas to Baton Rouge, 2016 was one of the worst recent years for targeted police officer killings.
“In 2016, 145 officers were killed in the line of duty,” Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Oates said on Tuesday. “So far this year, 44 officers have been killed in the line of duty in the United States – which represents a 22 percent increase over last year.”
Concerns of Police Survivors supports the loved ones fallen officers leave behind, offering families everything from financial assistance and psychological support to summer camps and scholarships.
The Woonsocket department’s annual CopsWalk helps raise money for the New England chapter. All the money donated will be going to families in the region.
Similar to a relay, each officer will take turns running four miles while fellow runners keep up with them in RVs.
One of the 37,000 members of C.O.P.S. is Robert Shaw, the father of Steven Shaw, the Providence police officer killed in the line of duty in 1994, shot while searching for a robbery suspect inside a home.
Robert has taken part in CopsWalks for 20 years.
“It’s so great,” he said, “because I can say to a father, ‘it sucks,’ and he knows, because he walked in my shoes before me, and I walk with him now.”
Robert also said the group has given him friendships in addition to tangible things.
“These guys will always be family, always,” he said. “Out of tragedy came some good.”
He added, “sometimes it’s better to just give a person a hug and say nothing.”
Woonsocket police continue to accept donations for this year’s CopsWalk at their headquarters. Last year’s team raised $26,000, which was the most they’ve ever raised in one year.