BANGOR, Maine — A group of eight local police officers, bound by the brotherhood of their job and a love of riding motorcycles, started a law enforcement motorcycle club 38 years ago that on Saturday will be inducted into the American Police Hall of Fame.
The Bangor-based Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club has grown into the largest law enforcement motorcycle club in the world and now has nearly 21,000 members in the United States and 27 other countries.
“Being a member of the Blue Knights is a true, true and devout honor,” John Pasko, vice president of the American Police Hall of Fame in Titusville, Fla., said Tuesday.
Pasko, a veteran officer with the Melbourne Police Department in Florida, joined the club a year ago and said the camaraderie with fellow members is beyond description.
“You bond with so many of the people because you share the same ideologies, the same drive, the same concerns,” he said. “You share the good times and you comfort each other in times of sorrow. I can’t compare it to anything except brotherhood.”
It doesn’t matter what country a member comes from, “we all speak the same language,” Pasko said.
Blue Knights members are active and retired law enforcement men and women who enjoy riding motorcycles. State and local police, sheriff’s, prison service, military police, immigration or customs officers can become members. The only stipulation is that members must have the power to arrest and must own their own motorcycles.
The idea for the Blue Knights started with Ed Gallant, who now lives in Milton, Fla., but at the time worked for the Bangor Police Department.
In the spring of 1974, Gallant, Urban Dyer and Chuck Shuman, who both worked for the Brewer Police Department, met over coffee and decided to form the motorcycle club.
Wayne LaBree and Joel Rudom of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, Mike Hall of the Brewer Police Department, Charles Gesner of Maine Probation and Patrol, Bill Robinson of the Maine State Police, and Doug Miner of the Maine Warden Service attended the club’s first meetings along with Gallant and Shuman.
Twenty-three local law enforcement officers showed up at the second meeting and the club grew by leaps and bounds from there.
Gallant and Shuman — two of three founding members who are still alive — will be honored at the induction ceremony, which is part of a three-day convention in Cocoa Beach, Fla., hosted by the Blue Knights’ Florida XII Space Coast Chapter.
The club has evolved into much more than the founding members ever imagined, Shuman, who lives in Largo, Fla., but spends summers in Holden, said this week in an email interview.
“I have enjoyed meeting new friends from around the world,” he said.
The Blue Knights Northeast Convention is May 11-13 in Bangor, the European convention is May 31 in Croatia and the International Convention is July 22-27 in Tyler, Texas.
International president Bob Flanagan, a retired police captain for the Dover Police Department in Ohio, said the induction into the hall of fame is a great honor for the club he joined in 1980. His wife, Connie, also served as the international president in 2005.
“It’s all about the camaraderie of it and motorcycle riding,” he said Tuesday. “It’s a fun thing to do.”