Editorial: Why the National Night Out events deserve your time and attention next week
What each of us knows about our local police departments is largely dependent on individual encounters, so it's probably safe to say that for most of us, our opinions are skewed by a lack of data. It's also safe to say that most of us don't have interactions with police that aren't confrontational at some level, where even a small amount of tension exists.
All of this is natural, but how valuable would it be if an opportunity existed for each of us to chat with police and firefighters like the normal humans we all are?
The opportunity we speak of is coming Tuesday in many of our suburbs. It's called National Night Out, and while each town does it a little differently, the ultimate goal is universal: promote useful relationships between residents and the first responders whose job it is to protect them. This is a rare opportunity for everyone to be friendly and respectful on both sides, and we urge you to take advantage of it.
As far back as the 1970s, "Take Back The Night" marches were being held in several suburbs -- largely but not exclusively women who were marching to demand safer streets and to put a spotlight on sexual assault. Over the years, many suburbs began switching their allegiance to the less political National Night Out movement, which focuses on community-building and positive relations between neighborhoods and police.
Today, National Night Out -- held in the suburbs on the first Tuesday in August -- begets family-friendly block parties, cookouts, festivals and more -- where you get a safety demonstration with your hot dog, and exhibits and demonstrations alongside the live entertainment.
You can see firefighters do a rappelling demonstration and witness Sgt. Rover (the K-9 officer) show off his training, over and over again, to new groups of agog children.
In other words, with all the face-painting, food and live music comes the chance for a laid-back, but fuller, understanding of how your first responder teams are organized, all the things they are capable of doing and how they can help you protect yourself and your family.
And while National Night Out doesn't have the bite or single-minded purpose of Take Back the Night, it serves a necessary function all its own: bringing neighborhoods and residents together with law enforcement and other agencies under positive circumstances.
Whatever is on TV Tuesday night, record it, and head for your own National Night Out. You'll be glad you did.