Aaron Kopp | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday Alexandrians joined with the Alexandria Police Department and other emergency medical service members during the 40th annual National Night Out. National Night Out is a yearly opportunity for police to inter- act with the community. The Carlyle neighborhood’s council hosted a national night out event featuring lawn games, a DJ, tables from local partners, kids checking out a fire engine and free food.
David Mammel, co-owner of Sweet Fire Donna’s and Tequila and Tacos, provided food for the event. As he watched firefighters danced the cha- cha slide with residents, he re- marked on the increase in size from last year’s celebration.
“We served about 400 people last year. I’d guess it’ll be more like 500 this year,” Mammal said.
According to Jeremiah Sisler, lieutenant from the Alexandria Fire Department, National Night Out is an opportunity for community-building.
“100% it’s a relationship builder. We get to shake hands and say hi,” Sisler said.
He’s been attending NNO with the department off and on for 11 years and leads tours through the fire house.
“It’s good for first responders and community members to meet when they aren’t in an emergency,” Sisler said.
At the Charles Houston Recreation Center first responders mingled with local residents and their kids while hotdogs sizzled on a grill in the parking lot.
APD Lieutenant Biruk Dessalegn, who has been participating in NNO for 15 years, discussed the chance to connect with the community.
“I got to play basketball with a couple of kids. You don’t get to do that on patrol, ” he said.
The evening provides an opportunity for candid talk with law enforcement as well.
“We have those conversations every day, it doesn’t have to be National Night Out. We’re trending in the right direction with that dialog,” Dessalegn added.
In a time where discussions around policing in America are in flux, NNO offers an opportunity to bridge the political divide. It’s a chance for police and emergency first responders to build relationships with the community and improve their ability to serve with public trust.