Pro­mot­ing po­lice-com­mu­nity part­ner­ships and build­ing trust

Cit­i­zens, law en­force­ment com­mu­nity ob­serve 2016 Na­tional Night Out

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­

Ob­served an­nu­ally on the first Tues­day in Au­gust, Na­tional Night Out is a com­mu­nity-build­ing cam­paign that pro­motes po­lice-com­mu­nity part­ner­ships and neigh­bor­hood ca­ma­raderie while mak­ing com­mu­ni­ties across the na­tion safer places to live, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Town Watch, which spon­sors

the pro­gram.

Neigh­bors across the na­tion par­tic­i­pate in a mul­ti­tude of crime-pre­ven­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing block par­ties, cook­outs, pa­rades, con­tests, youth ac­tiv­i­ties and sem­i­nars.

In Prince Ge­orge’s County alone, seven dis­trict po­lice sta­tions cel­e­brated 2016 Na­tional Night Out with free food and fun ac­tiv­i­ties for fam­i­lies and com­mu­nity partners alike. Dis­trict 5 in Clin­ton had the largest turnout with hun­dreds of res­i­dents. The event — hosted by the county’s po­lice de­part­ment and Dis­trict 5 Cit­i­zens Ad­vi­sory coun­cil — fea­tured a cook­out, pop­corn, snow cones, mu­sic, ven­dors, raf­fle ticket draw­ings, moon bounce, kid zone, skate mo­bile, fin­ger­print­ing for chil­dren and se- niors, a K-9 and marine unit dis­play and a hayride.

“What Na­tional Night Out does is it pro­motes the no­tion that law en­force­ment and the com­mu­nity is a part of the same com­mu­nity,” County Coun­cil­man Mel Franklin (D) said. “To re­ally do com­mu­nity polic­ing right, you have to do it when there is no cri­sis. That’s when you re­ally build the trust.”

“It’s just an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for us to im­prove our re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity. It es­pe­cially feels nec­es­sary now with all the things that are oc­cur­ring,” said Capt. Cedric A. Dick­er­son, as­sis­tant com­man­der of the Dis­trict 5 po­lice sta­tion. “We try to re­lay some of the fears that are out there be­cause there are a lot of mis­con­cep­tions, of course, with so­cial me­dia and ev­ery­thing. … Our main mes­sage is to let them know that our agency is here to serve. We’re not the en­emy. There’s no need to fear us.”

De­spite some mis­con­cep­tions, Dick­er­son said the res­i­dents make it eas­ier for of­fi­cers to do their job be­cause they want to be in­volved in the polic­ing process. Hav­ing such a strong sense of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment helps to cre­ate safer neigh­bor­hoods within the dis­trict, he said.

“Na­tional Night Out is one of my fa­vorite events be­cause it gives the whole com­mu­nity a chance to just fel­low­ship with the po­lice as or­di­nary peo­ple,” said Dorothy Carolyn Lowe, fa­cil­i­ta­tor of the Dis­trict 5 Cof­fee Club. “With what’s go­ing on in our coun­try right now, we’re way ahead of the curve. We re­ally do ap­pre­ci­ate our po­lice.”

For Clin­ton res­i­dent Perky Rogers, he said it’s a great thing to see pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions among neigh­bors and law en­force­ment.

“You can just walk around here and see the po­lice talk­ing to peo­ple and peo­ple are talk­ing to them,” Rogers said. “The whole gath­er­ing is not sep­a­rated into dif­fer­ent groups. Ev­ery­body is meet­ing with one another.”

Speak­ing of dif­fer­ent groups, mem­bers of the Spirit of Eli­jah King­dom Church and Prov­i­dence-Fort Wash­ing­ton United Methodist Church came to­gether for the sixth year in a row to host Na­tional Night Out at the Po­tomac Vil­lage Shop­ping Cen­ter in Dis­trict 7.

Ch­eryl Robert­son of Largo, a church ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Spirit of Eli­jah, said the event en­cour­ages com­mu­nity di­a­logue and par­tic­i­pa­tion from any­one and ev­ery­one, regard­less of their na­tion­al­ity, race or re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion.

For Robert­son, Na­tional Night Out not only cre­ates aware­ness and togetherness, but also pro­vides a great op­por­tu­nity for res­i­dents to learn a thing or two about their neigh­bor­ing com­mu­nity.

“I think this is what’s needed all over to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether with the po­lice force,” she said. “A neigh­bor to us is not just some­one that lives next door or down the street from you, but your neigh­bor­ing com­mu­nity. … As a res­i­dent who doesn’t live in this com­mu­nity but wor­ships in it, I was re­ally glad to hear that [this dis­trict has a low crime rate] be­cause I feel safer as a re­sult of hear­ing what the of­fi­cers have to tell us about our com­mu­nity.”

“I think it’s very im­por­tant that the church com­mu­nity is in­volved,” said James Hol­comb, se­nior pas­tor of Spirit of Eli­jah. “The church com­mu­nity is made up of fam­i­lies — that’s first and fore­most and the key is to bring fam­i­lies to­gether. Not just Black fam­i­lies, not just White fam­i­lies, but of all faiths, all gen­ders, all rac- es and also re­li­gions.”

For other res­i­dents like re­tired U.S. Army Col. Granville John­son, Na­tional Night Out has a spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance as ser­vice and giv­ing back is a part of his fam­ily dy­namic.

John­son, also a re­tired U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion spe­cial agent who served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, said it feels good to join neigh­bors in an in­ti­mate set­ting and cel­e­brate a safe, se­cure and di­verse com­mu­nity.

“Law en­force­ment, mil­i­tary — that’s in my blood and I feel good be­ing a part of the com­mu­nity,” John­son said. “There has to be con­stant di­a­logue and in­ter­ac­tion. If I’m your friend, I’m more likely to do the right thing by you as op­posed to be­ing strangers and dis­tant from each other. We want to have a com­mu­nity and that’s one of the ef­forts we want to put to­gether.”


A group of kids watch a robotics demon­stra­tion by United States Air Force (USAF) SSgt. Alexan­der Blair as SrA. Drew Te­sar helps a young par­tic­i­pant dress in safety gear. Balir and Te­sar are mem­bers of Joint Base An­drews’ USAF Ex­plo­sive Or­di­nance...

Dis­trict 5 Cof­fee Club fa­cil­i­ta­tor Dorothy Carolyn Lowe stands on stage as she calls out win­ning raf­fle ticket num­bers dur­ing a 2016 Na­tional Night Out cel­e­bra­tion Aug. 2 at the Dis­trict 5 po­lice sta­tion in Clin­ton. The event was hosted by the Prince...

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