They most often stand silently, but their presence speaks volumes.
From from dress to demeanor, every detail is precisely and perfectly executed because members of the Westminster Police Department Honor Guard know great attention to detail is a show of honor and respect.
Members of the WPD Honor Guard, along with representatives from agencies across California, will stand in somber tribute to the state’s fallen officers next month as part of the 40th annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial event.
The event, held May 1 and 2, will honor four officers killed in the line of duty in 2015 and a Long Beach officer being added to the list who was killed in the line of duty in 1954.
Westminster’s Honor Guard is one of only a handful of Orange County agencies selected to participate in the event — a stand-out ceremony among the many services they are called to attend, members said.
“It brings tears to your eyes when they start calling the names (of the fallen officers),” said Westminster Officer Jim Delk. “It’s unbelievable and inspiring.”
It was this ceremony more than a decade ago that spawned the formation of Westminster PD’s own honor guard.
Before then, when a group was needed to attend a community event or stand watch at a fallen officer’s service, a group of Westminster officers would show up in their formal-dress police uniforms to pay tribute, said Sgt. Bill Drinnin.
“There were a bunch of military guys who worked here and we just picked up the ball, but there wasn’t anything really formal,” Drinnin said.
When the name of one of Westminster’s own in 2005 was added to the glass-encased book at the state’s Fallen Officers’ Memorial, WPD’s honor guard gained momentum, Drinnin said.
Motor Officer Steve Phillips was killed in January 2004 in an on-duty traffic collision and, for the first time, Westminster PD sent a representative to the state’s annual ceremony.
“Among all the somber moments, I was able to see what a lot of other agencies were doing with their honor guard,” Drinnin said. “I think Westminster PD has always been a cutting-edge type of department in regards to the way we fight crime, treat the community and everything else.
“I wanted our honor guard to be the same way.”
Westminster’s eight honor guard members are distinguished from other uniform personnel by their military-style coats, white gloves and white pants.
They wear four-dent style hats and taps on their heels so their marching resonates in a quiet space with meticulous cadence.
The honor guard tradition is militaristic in nature and has been a fixture in law enforcement since the profession’s inception. Their presence is historically associated with funerals for officers killed in the line of duty.
An honor guard stands watch at the casket, presents an American flag to the grieving family and closes the ceremony with a 21-gun salute, with every pivot, salute and parade rest executed with flawless precision.
“The reason we practice and want to make it so perfect is to show respect for the people we are doing it for,” said Drinnin, a Marine veteran. “This is my way of giving back to anyone who serves and it’s just an honor to do these types of events.”
Added Delk, an Army veteran: “This is an important part of our department and hopefully we give support to the families who are going through loss.”
Westminster PD’s Honor Guard also attends various community functions, parades, memorial events and holidays such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
“If our presence is requested somewhere, we try to go,” Drinnin said. “I think it says a lot about who we are as a department.
“Having this type of unit is a good representation of teamwork, esprit de corps, camaraderie and positive morale.”
Westminster’s Honor Guard also makes a point to send representatives to every fallen officer’s funeral in the Southern California region and tries to have a presence at memorial services in other states, when possible.
They go where they are called to stand in quiet homage for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others.