Police officers don’t enter the profession in search of awards and accolades.
They report for duty every day with the understanding that laying down their life while on the job is a real possibility, Westminster Acting Police Chief Mark Lauderback said.
That was the case for the three Westminster officers (Lt. Ron Weber, Officer Steven Phillips, and Sgt. Marcus Frank) who were honored on May 23 at the base of the Westminster Police Department Memorial.
“Ron, Marcus, and Steve knew the dangers of being first responders but not once did they ever cower,” Lauderback said. “Like first responders across the nation, these men shared a commitment to something far greater than themselves. Like many here tonight, they knew that they may be called upon to lay down their lives in the line of duty someday.”
The ceremony, which was attended by relatives of the three fallen officers along with current and former police officers, was held at the spot where cyclists from the Westminster and Tustin police departments and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department held a moment of silence around the Westminster Police Department Memorial, having just returned from a 630-mile ride from the Peace Officers Memorial in Sacramento.
“There is no question that it is a difficult field to work in,” Lauderback said. “We often encounter people during their worst time and interact with people who want to hurt us simply because of the uniform we wear. They see and hear things that no one should ever see and hear. As a department it is our duty to keep retelling their stories to keep their memories alive.”
Weber made the ultimate sacrifice on June 6, 2003, while protecting the citizens of Westminster, dying from cancer attributed to exposure to toxic chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine.
Weber became the first Westminster police officer to die in the line of duty.
Slightly more than six months later, Phillips was patrolling on his motorcycle when he was struck and killed near Beach Boulevard and Trask Avenue on January 29, 2004.
Frank, an expert in Asian street gangs, became the third Westminster officer to lay down his life for the job, dying from a work-related illness on Oct.10, 2007.
Retired Westminster Police Officer Patrick Upstill, who worked with all three of the department’s fallen officers, described Weber as a “straight shooter,” who “was second to none in the area of narcotics investigations.”
“He learned narcotics like there was nobody else,” said Upstill, the father of Westminster Police Commander Darin Upstill.
Phillips came across as being serious but had a “sharp wit,” Upstill said. “I enjoyed his presence. I was extremely proud to know him.”
“(Frank) was an absolute computer,” Upstill said, adding that Frank was dedicated to the job and was a family man. “He was unbelievable to work with.”
“Ron, Steve, and Marc were role models to me,” said Upstill, who retired in 1997 after 25 years on the job. “Even though I had a lot more seniority, they were role models and it was an absolute pleasure to work with them and I miss them dearly.”