By Kaetlin Zink
Staff member David Hildick, who works at the front desk during his time off, has served as a police officer for 19 years. This coming May will mark his 7th year having ridden and participated in what is called the Police Unity Tour. The Unity Tour is a bike ride fundraising event which demonstrates recognition and support for all officers who have sacrificed their lives while on duty and for their family members who must continue moving forward after such tragedies.
There were many reasons Dave grew intimately involved with the cause. While he had always enjoyed bike riding, there was a deeper, more overwhelming reason behind his initial affiliation: In September of 2011, fellow New Castle County police officer and close friend, Joe Szczerba (at age 44), was stabbed in the line of duty. This was when Dave realized he seriously needed to do something to help.
Dave explained that when a police officer graduates from the academy and goes on to a squad, he or she must ride with senior officers in what is known as field training. Joe was one of the officers that Dave rode with for about a month span.
In Dave’s own words, “The things he taught me, I still do today, and pass on to the younger officers that I now train. Joe had great work habits, and everyday we tried to get into something new so I could learn the job fully.
“What I learned from his death was a little more about life itself. It’s sad that it takes the sudden death of a friend to remind you that you can’t forget to live. I have even started to look at life a little differently. Since then, I have tried to do something new each year that I have always wanted to do, but just would continue to put off. I have completed the Bike to the Bay numerous times, ran a few ½ marathons, and completed my certification in SCUBA diving. The Police Unity Tour happened to be one thing that ended up becoming a part of my life. I also try to spend more time with my family and do the things they want to do.”
Dave’s role as a rider
In addition to setting the pace during the Police Unity Tour, Dave helps about 10 other riders lead and keep the group of 125 total riders together. Their purpose for ensuring everyone sticks together is to emphasize that it is, indeed, a ride and not a race; hence the Unity Tour’s motto, “We ride for those who died.” With that said, Dave’s ultimate goal in his affiliation with the tour is to draw more attention to the cause and to help those families directly impacted.
Considering news and other forms of media pertaining to police officers tend to focus on the more negative side of things, Dave also believes the cause is a positive way to generate appreciation for all the sacrifices officers make every day. Dave presented some staggering statistics he’s come to know all too well over his career: “On average, a police officer is killed every 58 hours. So far this year, 33 police officers have gotten killed- 18 of those by gunfire.”
“It is refreshing to know that, with the hard work and effort of everyone involved, the Memorial Wall now functions as a permanent way for surviving families to remember and heal after experiencing the loss of a loved one. This is exactly what makes the Unity Tour such an important event to participate in.”
Its primary source of success, according to Dave, stems from those who feel compelled to contribute- whether they know someone personally who has died on the job, or whether they simply feel passionate about the cause and want to do something to help. Both the Unity Tour and the Wall support families by keeping the names of dear lost ones alive, especially when it is so easy to slip into the rushed, routine nature of day-to-day living.
Dave and his family have been HAC members since its official commencement date back in 2007. While Dave manages to fit HAC into his busy schedule, he admitted that balancing his time is very difficult. As an officer, he works four days on and four days off. During his time off, he said, “the club serves as a good way to free me from boredom that would inevitably ensue. It is also a positive outlet for releasing stress.” Because he deals with a lot of negativity at his job, the club is a good way to cope with it all.
Be sure to say hi to Dave if you happen to see him at the club! He, along with all the police officers out there, go to extraordinary lengths to ensure our safety and security. Though we often take it for granted, it is important to show thankfulness and appreciation for all that our officers do for us.
About the Police Unity Tour