His wallet a few hundred dollars lighter, Anaheim PD Chief Jorge Cisneros was preparing to leave the bar after making good on a bet with his old friend, Santa Ana PD Chief David Valentin, over which agency would prevail as O.C.’s top team at this year’s Baker to Vegas (B2V) run.
The 20-runner SAPD team, with a finish of 13:59:53 in the Open Division, bested the APD (14:06:13) to reclaim bragging rights at this year’s Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, held March 23-24.
But before he left Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in Santa Ana on the evening of Wednesday, April 3, after treating the Santa Ana PD runners to food and drinks, Cisneros had a parting shot:
“It (the bill) will be worse next year for your chief.”
Laughter and ribbing ensued.
Cisneros and Valentin – both relatively new to their positions – now have a new tradition: a trophy that will spend the next year at the SAPD and remain there unless the APD beats the SAPD squad in 2020.
The trophy was the brainchild of Sgt. Jorge López and his wife, Cpl. Maria López, co-captains of the Open Division team.
Over the years, the SAPD and APD have gone back and forth as O.C.’s top B2V team. The SAPD is back on top for the first time since 2014.
Before the happy hour festivities on April 3, Valentin held a ceremony for the SAPD Open Division team, as well as a second SAPD team that ran in a less-competitive division, at agency headquarters.
Before introducing and presenting each runner with a leadership coin, Valentin passed around a picture of the SAPD’s 1996 B2V team.
Only two of the officers in the photo remain at the SAPD: Valentin, and Officer Johnny Rodriguez, who ran in this year’s race on the agency’s second team.
“Obviously, the open team has joined the ranks of a long legacy of success here,” Valentin told the officers.
“I cannot tell you how proud I am of the performance by everyone,” Valentin said. “It really demonstrated one team, one mission…. And one cannot accomplish (this) mission without all of the volunteers and the (four) alternate runners.”
Added the chief: “I acknowledge the preparation and really just the pride in representing our department, and representing yourselves.”
The top finishers at B2V usually are agencies much larger than the APD and SAPD – agencies like the Los Angeles PD, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and California Highway Patrol, each of which have thousands of potential runners to pull from.
“To be as competitive as we are with the pool we have to pull from is very impressive,” said SAPD Cpl. Nicholas Lopez, who ran this year on the SAPD’s Open Division Team.
The SAPD currently has 330 sworn officers and the APD has 386.
“I got calls from chiefs from up and down the state,” Valentin said. “The LAPD called. They know that we’re on the map once again. We always were, we never left. We just had a (good race). I want to genuinely thank everyone who ran and everyone who supported them who put us back on the marker as the No. 1 Orange County team.”
Valentin quipped that Cisneros would be “standing tall” at Lucille’s.
And there he was, shortly before 5 p.m., to congratulate the SAPD Open Division team.
“This is your year,” Cisneros said. “Great run.”
Added Cisneros: “Good teams, at times, will struggle, but we’ll be back next year.”
The SAPD finished fifth overall and third in the Open Division, and the APD finished seventh overall. The SAPD’s best overall showing – third – came in 2013.
For the record, the Belize National Police was No. 1 this year in the Open Division with a time of 12:49:44, followed by the LAPD Department team at 12:50:35, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 12:50:45, and the California Highway Patrol at 13:37:57.
Members of the fast SAPD squad ranged in age from 22 to 47.
Officer Jonathan O’Neil, 22, ran the toughest leg, a 10.7-mile section that is all uphill, with an elevation gain of around 1,000 feet.
O’Neil, who ran cross country and track at Biola University, finished with an impressive average pace of 6:50 per miles.
“It was a great experience to be a part of such a meaningful tradition. I look forward to running again next year.”
Commander Manny Moreno, 47, ran the 5.1-mile Leg 5 in 37:59.
“Our team has a lot of heart,” said Moreno, who has been with the SAPD for 23 years and has run B2V 18 times.
About 50 SAPD officers tried out for the 2019 B2V Open Division team. They had to run a 10k in 43 minutes or less. The top 20 runners and four alternates were selected.
“At the end of the day, it was a collective effort of everybody,” Sgt. Jórge Lopez said.
In addition to the SAPD B2V 2019 Open Division runners listed below, the following served as team captains: Cpl. Maria López, Cpl. Jason Bruns, and Sgt. Jorge López.
Ofc. J. O’Neil
Cmdr. J. Weber
Sgt. J. Rose
Ofc. P. Marshall
Cpl. D. Garcia
Ofc. J. Alvaradejo
Sgt. J. López
Ofc. Z. Esquerra
Cpl. N. López
Sgt. J. Armstrong
Det. D. Prewett
Cpl. D. Alcala
Cpl. D. Padron
Cmdr. M. Moreno
Sgt. G. Hernandez
Det. P. McClaskey
Sgt. D. Padilla
Sgt. O. Lizardi
Ofc. J. McKee
Ofc. T. Liggett
Ofc. E. Guillen
Ofc. E Solorio
Ofc. M. Griffith
Det. A. Garcia
Editor’s note: Behind the Badge welcomes the Santa Ana Police Department to its growing list of public safety partners.