Police mingle with residents at local parks to mark National Night Out

As Owen Pridgeon’s mother, Mackenzi Huzer, and his sister, Tatum Pridgeon, and Benjamin Fleming watch, University of Chicago Police Department Officer Marshal Jones prepares to give Owen a high-five after he tooted the horn of Officer Jones’s Segway patroller during the University of Chicago Police Department’s National Night Out event in Nichols Park, Monday, August 6, 2019. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Staff writer

The Chicago and University of Chicago police departments held National Night Out events Tuesday evening to build relationships with the communities they serve.

“National Night Out is … the first Tuesday of August every year,” said UCPD Chief Kenton W. Rainey at Nichols Park. “All law enforcement agencies are encouraged to reach out to the communities that they serve and try to get people to come out and meet each other, get to know their neighbors, because we can’t do our jobs without the public’s help and assistance.”

Rainey said the UCPD tries to engage business owners, students and tourists to ensure they understand “all of us make up this community — with these kind of outreach efforts, we can definitely make the community safer for everybody.” He started the UCPD’s observance of National Night Out as its participation in the Police Activities League (PAL), a national after-school program wherein officers form bonds with and mentor local students.

The Chicago Police 2nd District went all out this year, with a DJ, petting zoo and pony rides. Several social services agencies did outreach. Officer Daliah Goree said planning began in February and that the district decided to concentrate the event in Washington Park. Officer Colleen Carcione said attendance this year eclipsed that in years past.

“What we’re trying to do is get the community and the police to come together, show them that we are people too and that we can come out, we can dance, we can laugh with you all,” Goree said. “And while we’re out here with this event, we’re trying to create resources in the community that they don’t know about.”

Rosemary Garrett brought her granddaughter after hearing about National Night Out through an email from the apartment complex in Bronzeville where she lives. “She’s still having fun!” Garrett said.

While cognizant of the mistrust between the African American community and the Chicago Police, especially on the South Side, Garrett said the event had been impactful in bridging divides. “It’s been nice and peaceful all afternoon and evening,” she said. “We get a lot of bad rap, but it’s been nice. All the kids have enjoyed it, as well as the adults.”