Community Park in Jacksonville is playing host to an event geared towards strengthening the relationship between the community and local law enforcement.
The second annual Jacksonville Night Out is presented alumni of the Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy and Morgan-Scott Crimestoppers in conjunction with the Jacksonville Police Department.
Bernie Hoagland, an alum of the Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy, joined WLDS’ AM Conversation to discuss tonight’s event. And as Hoagland explains, Jacksonville isn’t the only city celebrating National Night Out.
“On the first Tuesday of August, over thirty millions people in the United States, in more than 16,000 communities, will join forces to promote police-community partnership, crime prevention, and community-wide unity. We feel that in this day and age, with all of the violence in our nation, it’s important to bring the community and law enforcement together for a common cause,” says Hoagland.
According to Hoagland, National Night Out started in Philadelphia in 1984, and was brought to Jacksonville for the first time last summer. Hoagland discusses what tonight is all about, and says local authorities have already started taking steps in the right direction.
“We feel that it’s something the community really benefits from. Our new police chief is trying to bring the police and community more together with their programs like the cops on the streets again and the free ice cream cones that they give away to kids. So that’s what we’re trying to do is promote that type of atmosphere, so we try to bring the kids in and get to know these police officers,” Hoagland explains.
Speaking of Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford, who took over for former Chief Tony Grootens in March, he too believes that events like National Night Out foster positive relationships between police and the community.
“The more community events that the police department can engage in is only going to help strengthen that bond with the community and it can’t be anything but positive to get law enforcement members out in the community for events like this. We’ve also started an initiative called ‘Adopt a Park’ program, where the officers have been assigned a different park in the community and they will patrol that park and stop in and visit with people in the park during their duty hours. We did the coffee with a cop, and just recently we did cones with a cop, we we’ve had good feedback with that as well,” Mefford says.
There are a number of activities planned, such as free Ferris wheel rides for kids between 6-8 p.m., face painting and even visits from super heroes. Kids will also be able to check out fire trucks from the Jacksonville Fire Department, as well as other law enforcement vehicles.
Jacksonville’s National Night Out runs from 6 to 10 at Community Park.