Promoting police-community partnerships and building trust
Citizens, law enforcement community observe 2016 National Night Out
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
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...