Retired cop, avid bicyclist dies following crash during Police Unity Tour
Two days after being critically injured in a bicycle crash while participating in the 20th Annual Police Unity Tour, retired Roxbury Police Lt. Joseph Franklin has died, his family said in a statement Wednesday night.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Joseph Franklin. Helping others even in death, he donated his organs to those in need. We request privacy during this extremely difficult time and thank the community for their support," the family said in a statement released through Morristown Medical Center spokesperson Elaine Andrecovich.
Franklin had been involved in a dozen-bicyclist pileup and suffered severe head injuries, NJ Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan told NJ 101.5 in an interview on Bill Spadea’s morning show Wednesday morning.
Roxbury Police Chief Marc Palanchi confirmed the news in a statement Wednesday night. Palanchi said he saw Franklin Monday at the Police Unity Tour starting line and spoke with him for about 30 minutes.
"Joe was enthusiastic about how much he was enjoying retirement and how great everything was going in North Carolina. He told me he had become an avid bike rider and said he started every day with a 25-35-mile ride and then he would play gold or head to the beach," Palanchi recalled. "He was excited about and looking forward to the Unity Tour to ride in honor of the fallen and see all of his friends who were also making the trip. We shook hands, wished each other well and he told me to tell all of the guys to be safe as he rode away. A short time later, he was involved in the accident."
Frankin served 25 years on the Roxbury Police Department, where he began his career as a patrolman on March 24, 1982. He rose through the ranks, serving as a patrolman, traffic officer, patrol sergeant, traffic sergeant, patrol lieutenant, traffic lieutenant and community services lieutenant during his career, the police chief said in a statement.
In addition to his patrol and leadership duties, the chief said Franklin also dedicated his time to the department in other capacities, most notably with the establishment of Police Explorer Post 2188 in 1991. Palanchi said more than 500 local children and teens took part in the program since its inception.
"He gave his time, energy and provided leadership and guidance to young people effortlessly," Palanchi said.
The chief said many of the Explorers that went through the program under Franklin's supervision actually went on to become police officers. Franklin and the Explorer post also earned several local and national awards over the years.
One such award came in the form of a commendation from the Arizona Department of Public Safety in connection with the actions of a group of 14 Roxbury Explorers. According to published reports and a YouTube video of the 2006 National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference, the post members were in Arizona for the conference on July 5 of that year when they came upon a serious accident on Interstate 40. Several victims had been ejected from vehicles. The Explorers immediately took measure to begin securing the scene and calming the victims until emergency personnel arrived, a presenter said during the conference. Franklin and his young Explorers took the stage in uniform and were honored for their efforts.
Recognizing the success of the Explorer program, other agencies in Morris County enlisted Franklin's help in starting their own police Explorer programs.
"Joe Franklin was practicing Community Policing long before anybody was even calling it that," the chief said.
The Roxbury Police Department posted the news of Franklin's passing on it's Facebook page Wednesday night. As work began to spread, community members who benefited from the lieutenant's leadership in the Explorer program and in other areas of the community began to post condolences.
"Joe was a big part of so many peoples' lives, especially those, including myself who were part of the Police Explorers. He gave so many the strong foundation which helped us build successful law enforcement careers. He will be missed dearly," Sean Patrick said in response to the Facebook post.
Others offered condolences to the family and recalled his kindness and dedication to police work and the community.
Palanchi spoke of Franklin's wishes that his organs be donated so that he can continue to help people even after his death. The chief called the decision "heroic," describing his former colleague as "honorable."
"Joe gave to others his entire career and continued giving back to Law Enforcement during his retirement and ultimately gave his life during his last ride. Even today, he is still giving. Joe is giving the gift of life to others by donating his organs. One final heroic act," Palanchi said. "If I could use one word to sum Joe up best it would be honorable."
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.