Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Police, Community Join in 32nd Annual Night Out Celebration|
By Niki Cervantes
August 6, 2015 -- Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks took to the stage with other officers to rock to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” police displayed some of their hardware and George and Cooper, two dogs in need of adopting, made appearances.
And then there was the food, free and plentiful, and raffles, the bounce houses, rock climbing and games.
Santa Monica’s 32nd Annual National Night Out celebration at the Civic Center Tuesday brought the force together with a crowd of about 500 that gathered in a festival-like atmosphere meant to foster a closer relationship between police and the community.
Zina Markevicius, a lifelong resident of Santa Monica, said she was invited to attend by a friend who had just completed the citizen’s police academy. She’s glad she went.
“It was fun,” she said. “There were a lot of officers there. There was good, positive interaction.”
More than 16,500 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military based around the world staged their own versions of the event to foster partnerships aimed at improving relations between police and their communities.
Santa Monica officials said they pulled out all the stops for this year’s event. The SMPD’s patrol and tactical vehicles were on display in the parking lot, as were mounted officers on horses, including one named Barney.
“His saddle weighs about 40 pounds,” Markevicius said she was told.
Police with Santa Monica S.W.A.T. unit, and its forensics, jail, D.A.R.E., and Animal Control divisions also participated.
Started in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and Canada, National Night Out originated as a symbolic response to rampant gun violence and other crime, with neighbors gathering under their porch lights on the first Tuesday of August in a stand against crime.
In the decades since, the event has mushroomed. This year’s gathering came at a challenging time in general. The rate of serious crime in Santa Monica has been decreasing. But throughout the nation, relations between police and their communities have been stressed by the shooting of black suspects by white officers in cities like Baltimore and Ferguson.
Sponsors of this year's event included the Santa Monica Police Officers' Association, The Art Institute of Santa Monica, Pacific Park and Big Blue Bus.
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