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Tuesday Is 'National Night Out' in Pensacola, Milton

National Night Out.jpg
Escambia County Sheriff's Office
Escambia County Sheriff's Office at National Night Out in 2017.

Every first Tuesday in August is “National Night Out," aimed at enhancing the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community.

“It’s actually in its 37th year; this year, National Night Out will be August 3, at Blue Wahoos Stadium and at Milton Community Center,” said Denise Manassa with CDAC Behavioral Health, which is organizing the local events.

“We work on crime prevention, drug prevention; and we also look at our community resources,” Manassa said. “We have them come aboard to provide information about all the resources that we have in our area for community members to utilize.”

Given the number of news reports about police misbehavior – which involves a vast minority of cops – Manassa says this edition of National Night Out carries a little more importance than those previously, in making sure everyone’s on the same page.

“This gives the community definitely an opportunity to interact with our law enforcement, where it shows them, as a true sense within the community that they really do give us a sense of safety. And their responsibility is to give back to us as well.”

“It is so important and so heartening when you get the opportunity to see law enforcement and members of the community getting together for an event just exactly like this,” said Richard Hough, a 30-year police veteran who now teaches criminal justice at the University of West Florida.

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Dave Dunwoody/WUWF Public Media
Dr. Richard Hough

National Night Out, he believes, makes a concerted and consistent statement that violence is not to be tolerated, and that all have to work together as “co-producers” of crime prevention.

“Because, of course, two-thirds of all crimes occurs indoors, out of the sight of anybody – let alone law enforcement,” Hough said. “And so, it truly takes the entire community, and these kinds of events really can show off what good can happen when everyone partners together.”

It’s important, he says, that residents see members of the law enforcement community as part of them.

“As their neighbors; as the people they go to church with, as the people that they have their kids go to school in the same places,” said Hough. “And that the motivations to public service remain honorable ones.”

The murder of George Floyd and similar incidents around the nation the past few years – that were seen either partially, or in some type of full examination of the underlying factors. Hough says there is important dialogue on how far along we are as a country, and how governments are serving their constituents in a number of areas. He points to the pepper-spraying of protesters at UC-Davis in 2011.

“Rarely if ever will anybody remember that it was about Occupy Wall Street; the illustration is that law enforcement shows up to where they’re sent to, and usually, things are already a bit challenging,” said Hough. “When you have an outright, incorrect action by law enforcement, which fortunately is a very, very small minority of cases it is going to cause a lot more problems for them.”

For a second straight year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic — the local Night Out will be a drive-through affair. C-DAC’s Denise Manassa says working with law enforcement is just part of the celebration.

“And we are handing out school supplies; resource information of all community partners that we have, and we’re giving out food this year that’s provided by Feeding the Gulf Coast,” Manassa said. “Community members will be able to be in their cars, and see law enforcement giving out these supplies.”

Perhaps Abbott and Costello, in a message to kids at the end of a 1953 television episode, put it best.

“If you ever get in trouble, never run away from a policeman — always run toward them — he’s there to help you,” said Costello. “Don’t think he’s a bogeyman, he’s working for you. Of course, they’re all a nice bunch of fellows….remember that.”

More information on National Night Out is available by emailing dmanassa@cdac.info, and at natw.org.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.