It’s the largest police foot pursuit in the world.
And once again, cops from Orange County and around the world are trekking to the desert Friday and early Saturday for the annual Baker to Vegas Relay, a 120-mile pavement footrace that starts at 9 a.m. Saturday (the last team starts at 5 p.m.) and ends Sunday.
Teamwork. Camaraderie. Competition.
These are some of the reasons officers lace up their shoes every Spring and, in often blistering heat, blast out 6 to 10 miles or so each in a competition that is as much about bragging rights as it is about spending time off duty with each other.
“It’s not all about the winning,” said Det. John Azze, a major fraud investigator with the Anaheim PD who will be participating in his 18th “B2V,” as it is known.
“It’s great to participate in an event that means something,” Azze said. “It’s something the law enforcement family can call their own.”
More than 8,000 runners, guests, family members and support staff will be at this year’s B2V. More than 260 teams will participate in an event that began in 1985 with 19 teams.
Behind the Badge OC talked to some of the local agencies that will be sweating it out in the desert March 28-29.
La Habra PD
The La Habra Police Department proves size doesn’t matter at B2V.
The department has participated in the past, often partnering with other local agencies to form a team.
Last year, Chief Jerry Price pushed for LHPD’s own team, saying it would be a great relationship-building event for everyone.
“He was right,” said Officer Rob Sims, one of the coordinators for the relay. “The La Habra team is much deeper than just our runners.”
Members from all areas of the department turn out to help LHPD have a successful race.
“Because we are a small department, it puts a demand on our organization to work together so we have all the bases covered here at home,” Sims said. “It is not common for a department of our size to do this on their own but the commitment, from the chief on down, is why we are able to make this happen.”
Sims added the agency hopes to make the relay an ongoing tradition at LHPD.
“There were those who were a bit skeptical last year, but they have become believers, knowing we can do this on our own.”
The Anaheim PD will be honoring this year Det. Jeff “Tobinator” Tobin, who died of cancer Oct. 7.
Tobin’s badge number and photo will be on each runner’s bib and baton, and he will be recognized during the awards ceremony Sunday.
The Anaheim PD is team No. 5, which means the agency came in 5th overall last year of 260-plus teams (the event is limited to 270 teams).
“Here at Anaheim, we have kept a tradition of being very competitive,” Azze said. “We have managed to place in the top 20 for the entire history of the race, and we came in third in the 11th year.”
That’s significant, Azze said, when one compares the size of the APD with much larger agencies such as the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sheriff’s and the CHP — agencies that have a much larger pool to draw from for runners.
“The Anaheim PD has a culture of fitness that keeps us successful in these type of events,” Azze said.
Since 2004, the APD has included a second team in the race — a “fun team” where participation is the goal more than how the team does.
“This year,” Azze said, “our second team, No. 248, will be the most competitive second team we’ve ever had.
“Team 5 is looking forward this year to having one of our best finishes ever, and Team 248 might get a mug for the first time.”
A mug is awarded to a team that finishes in the top half of the category it is in. There are several categories teams race in, such as size of the agency.
Out of the gate, Tustin impressed at B2V.
In 2001 — the first year the department competed — the agency earned 5th place in their division and “mugged.”
“That’s really unheard of for a team for their first time,” said Mary Novotny, Tustin PD Field Support Division Manager.
The department in 2002 and 2003 took back-to-back championships in its division and has had a history of dominating in their class.
Until this year, TPD has competed in the 99 division, which is slated for departments with 99 or fewer sworn employees.
But this year, the agency is opening up the relay to the entire department.
“It gives all members of the department a chance to participate,” said Lt. Brian Greene, who will be running one of the most difficult legs of the course. “The whole focus is to build teamwork and camaraderie in the agency and by opening it up, it helps further build those relationships.”
Team 147 starts at 1 p.m. and is estimated to finish at 6:18 a.m. Sunday, said Sgt. Tony Rios of the Family Crimes Unit.
Team 147 has 20 runners (19 men and one woman), three alternates and 18 support personnel who follow the runners in a vehicle that carries the alternate runner in case of injury or a no-show runner.
Six of the runners are doing their first B2V this year.
Back in the late 1990s, the Fullerton PD won the 150-and-under division (the number of personnel) three years in a row.
Fun fact: Former FPD Chief Pat McKinley was in the first B2V race, in 1985.
The FPD running team, in order of Leg 1 to 20, are:
Alternate runners are Nick Dempkowski, Cary Tong and Joshua Manes
Support crew members are Kevin Craig, Jose Paez, Dave Benedict, Craig Odom, Patricia Arevalo, Cherokee Hotard, Pedram Gharah, Sonny Siliceo, Randy Richards, Nick Rosner, Johnathan Munoz, Robert Kirk, Francisco Sepulveda, Carlos Medina, Matt Malone, Barry Coffman, Tim Gibert and Rhonda Cleggett.
The FPD this year is competing against defending champs Newport Beach, the Orange PD, Simi Valley PD, Los Angeles Port PD, Beverly Hills PD, Downey PD and Upland/Montclair PD.
For more information, visit bakervegas.com