By Dennis J. Freeman
INGLEWOOD — Inglewood celebrated National Night Out Aug. 7 with members of the Los Angeles Laker Girls, clones from the Star Wars ensemble, fun activities for young ones, a dash of lemonade and officers mingling with city council members and residents.
National Night Out is an annual event where law enforcement and communities meet up to get to know one another more intimately.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, City Councilmen Eloy Morales Jr., Alex Padilla, Ralph Franklin and George Dotson attended the scheduled two-hour event just outside of the Inglewood Police Station.
“Basically, for us, it means bringing the community and the police department together,” Inglewood Police Lt. David Salcedo said. “Public safety is a shared responsibility. National Night Out, throughout the nation, law enforcement and communities are getting together for community-oriented policing, for partnerships, and basically to get to know each other. That’s what it means to us; getting to know your neighbors.”
“We want to let [the community] know we’re human, too,” Salcedo added. “Give them a sense of confidence in their police department, show them that we’re emphatic, that we care about the community. Our youth is very important to us. We’re here for our community. We work for our community. That’s why we come out here.”
Stewart Bailey has been a resident of Inglewood for more than 25 years. He sees National Night Out as a vital component to the building and strengthening of community-law enforcement relationship.
“It’s a good thing to have because our police, they need the support of the public,” Bailey said. “Without a good police department you don’t have a good city. It’s good to have this so that we can all come together as one and understand each other’s job in the community, we as citizens and them as the police.
“As a community, we have to understand that their job is not the easiest job in the world. They want to go home at night. When we talk about shootings, whether it’s from a police standpoint or them from the community standpoint, we know we’re going to have a little difference of opinions. But if we talk the situations out, we can come to an understanding.
“Nobody is ever going to be satisfied with any answer because somebody lost their life … we’re all human beings,” Bailey added.
Councilman Morales said National Night Out is a crucial element for the community-officer relationship to kick into gear.
“It’s an important event,” Morales said. “This event has obviously slowed down a bit. We brought it back. The relationship between our police officers and our community has always been extremely positive. Whenever you hear about the hiccups it has, the relationship is strong enough to overcome everything.
“As our (police) department goes, our community goes. … We are always promoting our officers within our community and introducing them and making sure they’re at the right places to meet these folks we want them to meet. It’s like every other relationship: you have to put work into it and these guys do a great job of that.”