Editor’s note: Through Saturday, May 21, cyclists from Orange County are riding between Sacramento and Westminster, Ca., in the Code 3 for a Cause memorial ride to raise funds and commemorate fallen and injured law enforcement officers. This is the 10th annual ride, organized by the Westminster Police Department’s Cmdr. Kevin MacCormick and Sgt. Bill Drinnin. Behind the Badge is along for the ride and will file dispatches from the road.
On a cool, overcast, 63-degree morning, there was a hum of activity on All American Way outside the Westminster Police Department. Six vans and a moving truck were parked on the otherwise empty street. Bicycles were ferried back and forth into the moving truck. Pallets of supplies were stored: cases of Gatorade, bagged snacks and lunches were packed in as well as a dozen Ball jars stuffed with pickle spears. Members of the group wore matching t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies.
On Tuesday, more than 20 cyclists from the Orange County area were preparing to hit the road for the 10th annual Code 3 For A Cause bike ride. The group would caravan to Sacramento for a solemn visit to the Fallen Peace Officers Memorial before embarking on a 600-mile trek over four days to Westminster.
This year the ride, coincidentally in conjunction with Police Week, will conclude Saturday with a grand arrival. Because of the significance of the anniversary, this year the traditional Sunday-Wednesday ride was adjusted to end Saturday so that families and supporters could be on hand for the arrival.
The ride takes the cyclists from the sun-baked San Joaquin Valley over the brown-shouldered eastern side of the Santa Cruz mountains to Watsonville, then south along Route 1 through the rocky Redwood draped hills of Big Sur and south into Orange County.
On the backs of the riders’ and volunteers’ matching tops are the names of three people, the reason for the ride. Lt. Ron Weber, Sgt. Marcus Frank, and Ofc. Steve Phillips are the names of three who died while on the job. Their names are followed by their dates of death, or End of Watch in police parlance.
Each year, the three, plus other officers who have passed away while on the force, are commemorated during the ride. Three groups of cyclists hit the streets each day and cover different distances of varied routes, reconvening each evening.
The event grew out of the Project 999 cycling event formerly put on by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. In 2012, Westminster Commander Kevin MacCormick and Sgt. Billy Drinnen started their own version of the ride. Both had been riding in the event since the early 2000s.
Project 999 was founded in 1980 by then-Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates. The Memorial Ride is its annual fundraiser and was founded in 2001 by the late Orange County Sheriff Lt. Daryl Poncy. The inaugural ride raised $5,000 for the families of officers injured and killed in service. This year, more than $62,000 was raised.
Although great fun, filled with camaraderie and friendship-building (if that’s what you want to call the sometimes torturous days of hill climbs and descents inhaling the exhaust of passing motorists) the event belies a solemn purpose. First and foremost, the ride is about remembrance and reflection.
“We’re riding our bikes for the people who can’t anymore,” Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Melanie Rea said. “That keeps our minds in check.”
For MacCormick, the ride is a reminder of the sacrifices of all officers and their families, not just those who die in service.
“I think it’s a shame more people don’t recognize what law enforcement does,” he said. “This job takes us away from our kids and our families. The general public doesn’t realize it’s not just the officers that sacrifice, it’s the families that sacrifice. This is my way of giving back to families.”
Read more about the 2022 Memorial Ride: