For years, National Night Out has been a way for law enforcement to connect with its communities.
During COVID, that wasn’t possible, so there seemed to be a disconnect, especially given the anti-police vibe across much of the country.
But last week, Kitsap County residents got the chance to meet officers, firefighters and organizations with ties to the departments during the National Night Out.
“The idea is bringing communities together with law enforcement and building bridges so that when we need the community, we’re already partners,” said Community Resource officer Schon Montague with the county sheriff’s office.
Sheriff John Gese said departments use this as an opportunity to recruit people interested in joining, but even if they aren’t, talking to them about it at least continues to build a connection between the departments and its citizens.
“Just by making connections with folks, we get the support, we get the partnership, and people tell us if they’re worried about crime or if they’re worried about neighborhood problems, and we respond and help them out. I think it’s a great way for us just to make those connections,” he said.
The event at the Haselwood Family YMCA in Silverdale had lots of activities for adults and kids, including a bouncy house, tours of different vehicles used by the various departments, and lots of photo opportunities.
Sandra Ingram, who brought her kids to the event, said that it was just as important for kids to be there as it was for adults. “I definitely appreciate coming to these cause it gives my kids contact with first responders and local law enforcement and it lets them know that they’re here for us.”
Timothy Scholl also brought his kids, saying it’s important to see the good that law enforcement does. He said: “Coming from law enforcement myself, being in a law enforcement family in Kitsap County, it helps build the trust and get the community together and see that we’re not the bad people. The bad people are the ones that cause the crime that they need to call for help from.”
Some organizations used the opportunity to educate children on important safety details.
Brandy D’Intinosanto with Kitsap Cencom, known as Kitsap 911, had her booth set up with a wheel that would reward kids with small prizes for answering questions that a 911 operator might ask in an emergency. She said that going over the information helps organizations gauge how much the youth in the community know and how much education they need going forward.
“Really, we want to be engaging and get people involved in the conversation,” she said. “You know, a lot of parents, they have that responsibility to teach their kids their address, their phone number, who to call in an emergency. So we don’t always know what level the kids are at, if they know that information or not. So it’s easier to just kind of engage them to ask the questions, get the information from them, see what they know, and then you can fill in the gaps afterward.”
The event was also important because the community begins to realize how many groups work together to keep the county safe.
“We really work as a big team. If you think about each of our first responders kind of being a link in the chain to get somebody to help with a need, 911 is that first link. We’re the ones that you’re going to call at the first instance you know you have a problem that you need assistance with. That’s why it’s important for us to be out here as well.”
The big turnout had officers such as Montague thankful that Kitsap County brings so much support to law enforcement.
“A lot of the things that you see in the news, whether it would be national or even some of the things that are going on locally but over in the other counties, we’re not really experiencing that here in Kitsap County. We’re very fortunate. You can chalk that up to a lot of different things, but I think the reality is that it’s really because we’ve fostered good relationships for such a long time that when people heard negative things, they were already on our side.”