National Night Out builds, maintains community relationships, police say

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Shelly Birkelo
July 31, 2015

National Night Out celebrations are expected to draw 3,000 people to Janesville and Clinton on Tuesday.

The annual national campaign is intended to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

The Janesville Police Department is hosting it's celebration at police headquarters, and the Rock County Sheriff's Office is partnering with the Clinton Police Department.

Both are from 5 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 4.

“It's a positive family event,” said officer Chad Sullivan of the Janesville Police Department.

“It's free and fun,” said Sgt. Troy Egger, training coordinator for the Rock County Sheriff's Office.

National Night Out was started by a Neighborhood Watch program 32 years ago to bring communities together to help law enforcement keep the community safe, Egger said.

“That's our primary goal and what we're looking for--for the community to come out and help us. The more communication we have with them, the easier our job is,” he said.

Sullivan agreed: “We're going to focus on talking to people to build relationships, to let them know we're approachable and have good intentions. It's getting out and interacting with the community on a positive level.”

That's more important than ever, they said, after highly publicized deaths of minorities at the hands of police nationwide.

“Unfortunately, with the uniform we're sometimes looked at in a negative light,” Egger said.

“There's some negative messages out there about law enforcement where they think of us as the enemy,” Sullivan said.

The exact opposite is true, they said.

“We are people, too. It's good for them to see us as part of the community,” Egger said.

“We want people to get out, meet our officers, and to get to know them. They're just normal people,” Sullivan said.

National Night Out helps police build relationships with the community and gives them a platform to provide information, Egger said.

Some of the fun things planned include more children's games and raffles for adults and children, he said.

Several people donated money to the sheriff's office, which spent several hundred dollars on footballs, baseball and soccer balls.

“So a lot of the prizes are geared toward keeping kids active, and we spent a lot of money donated for raffle prizes, which is new this year,” Egger said.

Janesville is making its National Night Out more entertainment based, Sullivan said.

The Gary Trio, a local band made up of Rock County musicians, will perform live music. 

And instead of officers doing demonstrations, they will be out among the people talking, Sullivan said.

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