This is not a vacation or some fancy bike ride down the coast, Westminster Police Department Sgt. Bill Drinnin said.
There is pain. There are tears. There are stories.
Drinnin was among a dozen officers from the Westminster Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department who completed a four-day, 630-mile cycling trek from the California Peace Officers’ Memorial in Sacramento to Westminster Police Department’s Fallen Officer Memorial.
The cyclists ride to raise awareness and funds for families of peace officers who have died in the line of duty.
Family members, friends, and fellow officers were on hand at 2:30 p.m. July 15 to greet the cyclists, who got off their bicycles, circled the memorial, held hands, and observed a moment of silence to remember their fallen brothers and sisters.
“Everybody that you see here has the same exact passion for this whole thing,” said Drinnin, who has participated in the ride for 10 years. “It’s about giving back and remembering these guys who we call heroes … the guys who taught us everything we know about police work. The guys across the country that we never met. That is how the thin blue line is. It is a family. We love each other. That is what it is all about. Not one single person here is in this for themselves. They are the most humble group of people that you could ever meet. ”
Orange County Sheriff’s Department Retired Deputy Ron Dunlap started the interagency ride in 2001 to raise funds for the Project 999 Foundation, which supports Orange County officers injured or killed in the line of duty.
In 2012, Drinnin began organizing the event, adding Code 3 Cycling to the cause. Code 3 is the Westminster Police Department’s memorial foundation supporting fallen and injured officers and their families locally and across the country.
Westminster Commander and ride organizer Kevin MacCormick, who was participating for the 15th year, said he rides for the families.
MacCormick and Drinnin are also members of the Westminster Police Department Honor Guard and have hand delivered checks to families of fallen officers all around the country.
“We’re very passionate about it,” MacCormick said of the ride. “It’s one of my favorite things to do. My whole thing is that nobody forgets. It’s not about notoriety. It’s not an ego contest. It’s not a competition. If us riding 630 miles makes people think about these folks, then that is all that is important. If you’ve never been to a police funeral, that kind of explains what this is all about.”
Officer Claire Tran, who was taking part in the ride for the first time, said she felt like she was “part of something bigger than myself.”
“I thought it was a great way to let the families know they have not been forgotten,” she said. “Even though years have passed, we still think about them and honor them and the sacrifices that they made.”
Ten officers died in the line of duty in California in 2019, lifting the total number of line-of-duty deaths in the state to 1,659.
Nationally, 147 officers died in the line of duty in 2019.
“There are times you want to do nothing but get off the bike but you have to keep reminding yourself why you are there and why you are doing it,” said Westminster Police Officer Nicole Brown, who was also participating in the 630-mile trek for the first time. “You’re not just going on a bicycle to ride. You’re doing it because of other officers who have died in the line of duty. I wanted to be a part of it.”
Brown, who is not an experienced cyclist, went on a couple of training runs to prepare for the four-day trek.
But Brown said no amount of training can prepare you for the ride itself.
“Each and every one of us rode every single mile of this bike ride and that is something that we can bond over because we did it … blood, sweat and tears on this trip together,” she said. “I think it’s super important, especially in this political climate we’re in where there is a lot of scrutiny and negativity surrounding police. I think it’s important to let the families know that we still remember the sacrifices that their loved ones made.”
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