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Police Mingle With Community At National Night Out

Photos by Alan Olson Volunteers distribute food and drinks at the National Night Out event Tuesday evening.

WHEELING – Community involvement was the theme of the night at Wheeling Park, where uniformed officers met, mingled and showed off their equipment to members of the public, eager to meet the people behind the badges.

More than 100 people attended the National Night Out event held at Wheeling Park’s ice rink, where the Wheeling Police Department set up demonstration zones and exhibitions of their equipment, from squad cars to drones. Free food, drinks and snacks were also provided.

Young kids tried their hand at navigating an obstacle course on a three-wheeled pedal car, while others took a keen interest in the flashing lights and electronic workings of patrol cruisers. The crowd favorite, though, was Cpl. John McKenzie and K9 Jericho demonstrating apprehensions on Jason Martin, clad in a heavily padded suit.

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said the event’s focus is on community bonding between members of the public and its community members who are on the police force.

“The thing that really makes me proud was when I had younger officers who came up to me late last week, who’d seen the publicity about this event and maybe hadn’t participated before,” Schwertefeger said. “They say, ‘Chief, what is it I need to do to be able to go out and participate?’ That makes me proud, that makes you know you really went in the right direction, hiring new people who want to be community-oriented. That’s what this is all about.”

Lt. Josh Sanders said he’d been a frequent attendee since the department began participating in these events years prior, and that he made a point to keep coming back to keep building community ties.

“Since I started in law enforcement 16 years ago, one of the things I learned at school was about Sir Robert Peele and his rules for modern law enforcement,” Sanders said. “One of those rules is that the community are the police and the police are the community. We cannot do what we do without the community’s help, and vice versa, they cannot live peacefully without our help.

“We have to get to know the community, and it’s really great, helps us do our job when they know us. … I’ve been out here a lot, I’ve done National Night Out since we started it.”


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