They make it look easy, but navigating intricate cone patterns set up in the parking lot of Huntington State Beach is anything but.
Hundreds of motor officers from across Southern California turned out on Wednesday, Sept. 9, for the Orange County Traffic Officers’ Association annual Motor Rodeo.
Nearly 300 officers from more than a dozen agencies came out to compete.
La Habra, Tustin, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Irvine, Los Angeles and Pasadena were among the departments represented.
The event is an annual training exercise to improve motor officers’ skills with a little added friendly competition between riders.
“They throw different patterns at you and it helps keep your skill up because this is a perishable skill,” said Cpl. Ryan Warner of Fullerton PD. “But (this event) is also about camaraderie.”
Part of that camaraderie means honoring officers who have died since the group gathered the year prior.
The Motor Rodeo serves as the OCTOA’s annual fundraiser to bring in money to help the families of fallen officers.
This year, the association paid tribute to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department motor officer described as a teddy bear of man who loved his family, serving his community and competing in the rodeo.
Zach Page died on July 19 after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. He asked to be buried in his uniform as a tribute to the profession he held in the highest regard, friends said.
“Zach fought his battle with vigor, courage and enthusiasm,” said Santa Ana Cpl. Matt Wharton, president of the OCTOA. “He was passionate about everything — his family, his friends, his job and this association.”
The association presented Page’s family with a lifetime achievement award to honor the motor officer who was integral in planning the Motor Rodeo each year.
“Zach always felt we shared a unique common bond — a brotherhood if you will — of being a police officer or a deputy,” Wharton said. “As you ride, remember Zach and know that he is here in spirit.
“Remember that we are all brothers in a most difficult time for law enforcement.”
That spirit of brotherhood was evident throughout the competition as officers congratulated each other on a clean ride, ribbed each other a bit when mistakes were made and rushed to help when an officer laid his bike down mid-course.
“This is not as easy as it looks,” said La Habra Motor Sgt. Jim Tigner, who is on the OCTOA board and helped set up the course. “What they are doing takes a lot of skill.”
Officers were challenged with six patterns varying in difficulty and scored based on whether they completed the pattern correctly and without knocking into any cones.
Tigner said successfully completing the course takes a delicate balance between knowing how to position properly, how much power to use, and how much restraint to have.
“It really is like Goldilocks — too much or too little power is not good, you have to get it just right,” Tigner said.
Officers competed in teams and also vied for individual awards. The day ended with motor officers going head-to-head in a Top Gun competition.
Here’s a look at the winners:
TOP GUN Challenge
1. Officer Klotz – Pasadena PD
2. Officer Carter – California Highway Patrol
3. Officer Murphy – Burbank PD
1. Officer Himert – Huntington Beach PD
2. Officer Blumenthal – Pasadena PD
3. Officer DeSylvia – Pasadena PD
1. Officer Carter – California Highway Patrol
2. Officer Menchaca – Los Angeles PD
3. Officer Cupido – Riverside PD
Open Class (Harley Davidsons)
1. Deputy Barcelos – Orange County Sheriff’s Department
2. Officer Riley – California Highway Patrol
3. Officer Godinez – Los Angeles PD
1. Pasadena PD – Officers Blumenthal, DeSylvia, and Watkins
2. Tustin PD – Officers Wonser, Casiello, and Hedges
3. Huntington Beach PD – Officers Himert, Shields, and Van Meter
1. Orange County Sheriff – Deputies Blake, Bucaro, and Padilla
2. Santa Ana PD – Officers Kachirisky, Rodarte, and Cervantes
3. Burbank PD – Officers Murphy, Lloyd, and Turpin