Forging bonds through community celebration

Published 7:45 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

Every year in August, a day is set aside in which the public and law enforcement can gather together to celebrate community.

It’s called National Night Out. It takes place in all 50 states and U.S. territories, in Canadian cities and military bases across the world. There are block parties, festivals, cookouts and parades. There are safety demonstrations, youth events and tours of fire trucks and other emergency response vehicles.

In Washington, past events have featured chicken wing-eating contests, DJs, dunking booths featuring first responders, cake walks, drawings for bicycles and school-supply giveaways.

It’s good, clean fun and a place where members of the public can meet and talk to those whose job it is to serve and protect them.

When the average person encounters law enforcement, so many times the situation that brings them together is rife with stress. A theft, a domestic argument that ends in violence, a car accident, a death — to the victim, all can be traumatic in various forms. First responders must negotiate that trauma on a daily basis to do their jobs and find out what happened, how it happened and who should be charged, if applicable.

What National Night Out does is provide an even playing field, a place where law enforcement officers and Washington residents can come together in an environment without the stressful circumstances in which the two usually interact. It’s an event where the uniform doesn’t matter, so much as the person wearing it. Ultimately, it’s about building trust, so that everyone works together to make the community safer.

“Preventing and solving crimes is a community effort. National Night Out is an excellent program that helps the department build relationships with neighbors and create safer neighborhoods. This is one of the events we look forward to each year,” said former Atlanta Police Department Chief George Turner on the NNO website.

NNO will be held in Washington on Tuesday evening at Beebe Memorial Park. Everyone is invited to celebrate and help forge the bonds that ensure a community stays safe, together.