Westminster Police Department fallen officer honored by Rio Hondo College Police Academy recruits during Pride Run

By Jessica Peralta

Thirty-nine Rio Hondo College Police Academy recruits ended their police training in early January by honoring a Westminster PD fallen officer during a 4-mile memorial run throughout the city.

A Rio Hondo tradition brought back from earlier days by current police academy Director Walter Allen, the Pride Run honors a fallen officer researched and selected by each class’s recruits for a run in the officer’s city.

Westminster Police Deputy Chief Mark Lauderback, right, thanks recruits from Rio Hondo College Police Academy Class of 207 who participated in a memorial run dedicated to Westminster Police Officer Steven Phillips. The run ended at the Westminster Police Officer Memorial.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

On Jan. 8, class 207 honored WPD Motor Officer Steven L. Phillips, who was killed in an on-duty traffic accident in 2004.

“We never forget our fallen heroes, do we?” Allen said to the recruits as they stood in front of WPD’s fallen officer memorial at the conclusion of the run. “Remember that. Be safe.”

WPD Deputy Chief Mark Lauderback thanked the recruits for honoring Phillips, who was a beloved member of the agency.

“It truly means a lot to everyone here in the department,” he said, adding congratulations for their graduation on Jan. 10. “It is a heck of an accomplishment.”

During the 4-mile course, which began at the WPD memorial at 8 a.m., the recruits ran along major Westminster streets, including Newland Street, Hazard Avenue, Bushard Street, Trask Avenue and Jackson Street, where Phillips’s accident occurred.

Recruits and instructors from Rio Hondo College Police Academy make their way up Newland Street near Trask Avenue during a memorial run for Westminster Police Officer Steven Phillips.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Part of the Pride Run tradition includes running to the location of where the officer was killed and performing pushups at the site, according to Allen.

“We did 30 pushups in honor of Steve,” said Allen.

Among the 39 recruits running through the city were two who will soon be returning to the agency as new officers: Nicole Brown and Jonathan Mullin.

Recruits and instructors from Rio Hondo College Police Academy return to Westminster’s civic center at the end of their memorial run.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Brown said that the Rio Hondo academy’s memorial wall is the first thing you see when you enter the facility. She said it includes the names of officers killed in the line of duty. When deciding which officer to honor during the Pride Run, the class considered the date – Jan. 29, 2004 – the date of Phillips’s death. Since their graduation would also take place in January, the class thought it would be a fitting choice, Brown said. Plus, two of them would be working in Westminster.

“Just knowing that it was going to be here … it certainly made me feel really proud,” said Mullin.

Recruits arrive at the Westminster Police Officer Memorial after the run dedicated to Westminster Police Officer Steven Phillips.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Brown said it was an inspiration to be able to run in the name of a fallen officer from the department she will be working at and in a supportive community. Residents waved at the recruits as they ran through their neighborhoods, she said.

“To have that support was amazing,” she said.

At the end of the run, the recruits and their instructors were treated to some free food provided by Chick-fil-A in Westminster. The recruits – as a sign that their recruit status was nearly coming to an end – were allowed to line up for food before their instructors.

Recruits from Rio Hondo College Police Academy Class of 207 gather after a memorial run in front of the Westminster Police Officer Memorial that includes the name of Westminster Police Officer Steven Phillips.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Westminster Police Deputy Chief Mark Lauderback applauds recruits from Rio Hondo College Police Academy Class of 207 after they participated in a memorial run dedicated to Westminster Police Officer Steven Phillips. Richard Pena, adjunct college/POST instructor at Rio Hondo College and a retired Buena Park police sergeant are far right.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge