Bellevue PD sees National Night Out as an opportunity to connect
This Night Out at Everett Park was one of about 20 planned for Bellevue neighborhoods this year
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The wounds of mistrust in recent years between some communities and police are fresh, which makes National Night Out as important as ever.
”We can’t mend relationships unless a dialogue happens,” Bellevue Police Chief Ken Clary said. “So every opportunity we can, we’re gonna get out in the communities, we’re gonna open the dialogue. We want to explain ourselves, we want you to know we are there for you, we want people to know we’re here to increase safety in the community and not make people feel threatened because we’re there.”
This Night Out at Everett Park was one of about 20 planned for Bellevue neighborhoods this year. The food and water were free and the atmosphere was intentionally relaxed. Rusty Hike is a fourth-generation Bellevue resident, and now is his city’s mayor.
”We’re friends, the police are our friends, they’re not our enemies,” Hike said. “They’re here to help us and it gives the kids a chance to see them up close, touch their vehicles, it just opens it up; people shouldn’t be intimated by the police, they’re here to protect us.”
Roger Cox handles community relations for the Bellevue Police Department and has been involved with the Bellevue National Night Out event for the past decade. He sees the night as a chance to keep a community connected in changing times.
“Front porches were an awesome thing back in the day, but if you look around, we’re not sitting on the front porch anymore, we’re out in the back,” Cox said. “So nights like this get you, whether it’s in your neighborhood or coming out to this huge park party, you’re going to meet somebody new down here today, you’re going to interact with an officer, you’re going to interact with city leadership.”
With all that said, the question is posed to the chief, does National Night Out really work?
“We are members of the community, so we live in the community and play in the community,” Clary said. “It’s just an opportunity for them to interact with us while we’re wearing our uniform in a non-punitive way, in a friendly way, so to answer your question, does it work? I’d like to think so.”
Connecting with future generations is another positive aspect for Clary.
“Every once in a while you’ll be walking around in a uniform and you’ll see a child who is a little skittish,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us, we should be seen as a safe haven, if a kid happens to be lost, when they happen to have an issue, you never want a confrontational or scared child, we want to break down that barrier early in life so they know we’re a friendly face, so we love when that happens, so every opportunity to have interaction with a child is a good day.”
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