Kids get up close, learn from law enforcement at National Night Out

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Samantha Jacquest
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BELOIT–Shooting guns, tackling prisoners and putting people in the back of a squad car is nothing out of the ordinary for law enforcement. But on Tuesday, sheriff's deputies and police officers were dealing with an unusual batch of suspects—mostly kids.

The Rock County Sheriff's Office and Town of Beloit Police Department hosted National Night Out Preservation Park in Beloit, and about 3,000 people came out to spend a few hours with local law enforcement.

The nationally celebrated event, completely funded locally through donations from area businesses, is an opportunity for residents to meet and interact with law enforcement officers in a social and positive setting, said Sgt. Doug Coulter of the Rock County Sheriff's Office.

The event was geared toward kids and families as a way to educate children and get them comfortable with the people in uniform, said Lt. John Conger with the City of Milton Police Department. Kids were able to shoot training guns, tour law enforcement vehicles and watch multiple demonstrations conducted by real officers.

One of the demonstrations consisted of six sheriff's deputies entering a jail and apprehending prisoners. The deputies were completely geared up and ran through the drill as if it were a real situation.During the demonstration a narrator explained to the audience the team's strategy and reasoning.

When residents weren't shooting guns and watching helicopters fly by, they were eating hotdogs, playing games and walking around to different vendor tables.

This was the first year Mandy Barnes and her family attended National Night Out. Barnes said without this event, she would probably never have met law enforcement officers.

“This is a good way for everyone in the community to interact,” Barnes said. “People don't usually interact with police unless it's a bad situation, so this is a nice way for everyone to get together and have fun.”

Family of law enforcement officers also came out to support the event. Kelly Jacobson, whose husband is a sheriff's deputy, brought her sister to the event and said she encourages friends to attend every year.

“It gives the chance for the community to see deputies and officers up close, and to see that they're normal people that have families,” Jacobson said. “Most contact is usually not in this sort of social setting, it's while the they are working.”

Coulter said building relationships with community members is the main reason law enforcement puts on National Night out, but another important reason is so people feel comfortable with law enforcement in case they are ever involved in a situation where authorities are needed.

“It brings us and the community closer together and let's them know that we need them to help with what we do as much as they need us,” Coulter said.

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