By Steve Sears
For the 23rd consecutive year, Riverdale Police Department Police Detective Sergeant Christopher Biro is taking part in the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event, originally scheduled for June 9, has been moved to October 9, 2020 (pending any further health crises). It benefits the New Jersey Special Olympics.
A special video was created with representatives from each county appearing. “It was kind of ‘we haven’t forgotten about you’ type thing,” says Biro, who was the Morris County representative in the video.
Labelled “The Gazelle” by Riverdale Police Department Chief of Police, Kevin Smith, Biro first took part in the event when a dispatcher for the Wayne Police Department, where he worked from 1997 – 1998. He has been stationed in Riverdale since 1999. “They used to have a run that used to start in Wayne, and then when I came here, I became the coordinator here,” Biro says.
Law Enforcement Operation Torch Run was created in 1981 by Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon, who believed the event would aid his state’s law enforcement support of the community and Special Olympics Kansas.
Various (about 26) runs take place throughout the Garden State, and Biro is part of run #4, which starts in Butler, and then ends 26 miles later in Morris Plains. Police officers from Butler, Bloomingdale, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes, and Pequannock join their Riverdale comrades. Along the way, there is a stop at the Shop-Rite in Lincoln Park, where a presentation is made, and then Montville takes the torch and makes their way to Morris Plains. At day’s end, all the runs culminate in Trenton, where an official torch lighting and opening ceremonies are held to begin the weekend-long Special Olympic Games.
Biro, 46, has always been a runner, a member of cross-country teams in high school and college. “A lot of towns just run in their town, but he,” says Smith, proudly pointing to Biro, “starts in Butler, and he runs all the way through Lincoln Park. That’s like 9 miles.” Some fellow officers run with Biro.
There are various ways to raise donations and funds for Biro and his group. “You can go online and donate,” he says, “you can go on the town website and donate, there’s forms and you can just drop donations off at (police department) headquarters, you can mail them in…there’s all different kinds of ways. New Jersey has always been a big money raiser – they’re one of the top in the country, raising money for Special Olympics – so, it means a lot to those kids. They’re counting on you; they look forward to it every year to doing that, and they can’t do it without our support.”
Residents cannot run with the groups because the run is primarily for law enforcement, but there is an agreement with the schools where a waiver can be signed, and kids can run a short distance because the schools are raising money for the officers as well. However, the community is often by the side of the road offering encouragement when they see officers jogging by and wearing the Special Olympics representative shirts.
Well aware what the run does for New Jersey Special Olympics, it also does something for Biro. “It makes you feel good.” Visit www.sonj.org/partners/law-enforcement-torch-run/ for more information.