“You guys like horses?”
Anaheim PD Officer Patrick Bradley, a member of the mounted unit, addressed the two boys as they looked, wide eyed, at Lincoln, a 15-year-old police horse.
Jackson Hayden, 5, and his brother, Cameron, 2, shyly took in the scene at the APD’s National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 6 in Maxwell Park – which last year was overrun with a sizable homeless population and couldn’t be used for the annual event.
Following efforts by the APD’s West District Community Policing Team, Homeless Outreach Team, and Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, as well as several community partners, Maxwell Park has been cleaned up and restored to its previous state as a safe place for families to enjoy.
A visit and picture session with Lincoln was one of the boys’ first stops at the three-hour event, which played out nationally for the 36th consecutive year in some 16,000 communities, attracting close to 40 million people.
National Night Out is designed to educate the public about various aspects of police agencies, including crime and drug-prevention strategies.
It’s all about neighborhood unity, awareness and safety – and strengthening community spirit and police-community partnerships.
The APD pulls out all the stops each year at National Night Out, including tours of a helicopter that is part of the agency’s Angel fleet, a shoot/don’t shoot scenario trailer, a K9 demonstration, and much more.
At the APD’s Mounted Unit booth, Bradley displayed the face shields horses wear for protection during rallies and other events in which protestors may get violent.
When then-presidential candidate Donald Trump came to Anaheim for a rally in May 2016, some attendees hurled rocks and other objects that hit the Plexiglas face shields, as well as shields worn by officers, Bradley said. Eleven people were arrested on suspicion of failing to disperse or of vandalism.
“The (face shields) are the only protection they wear,” Bradley said of the horses.
Hayden asked close friends Chris and Marion Dunn to tag along with her and her sons to the event (Hayden’s husband, a contractor, was working).
The Dunns were happy to go.
Chris Dunn spent 31 years as a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department before retiring in 2010 as an investigator. Dunn, of Orange, still works for the OCSD part time.
“It’s a great community event that builds strong bonds and trust,” Dunn said of National Night Out.
Tommy Ruiz Sr., a longtime volunteer at the APD who worked for 33 years in the city’s Public Works department, escorted McGruff the Crime Dog around Maxwell Park.
McGruff especially was popular with the kids.
“This is good for the community and good for all of us to get together,” Ruiz Sr. said.
He approached a 2-year-old girl in a stroller.
“You want a badge?” Ruiz Sr. said as he handed her a sticker.
The girl took it and studied it.
“Say thank you,” her mother said.
Members of the APD’s various units — Homicide, Robbery & Assault, and the like – talked to visitors and provided them with brochures and other handouts detailing what they do as well as handing out crime prevention information. They offered visitors goodies and prizes, and provided simple toss and spin-the-wheel games.
At the APD Detention Facility booth, correctional officers who work inside the agency’s jail had kids pose for pseudo booking photos while holding placards that described their “crimes” (not doing my chores at home, not cleaning my room, not getting straights As).
APD Chief Jorge Cisneros worked the crowd at the event, which ran from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., before making brief remarks and awarding Anaheim neighborhood leaders with National Night Out Block Captain’s Awards. Block captains are neighborhood watch leaders who liaison with the PD and the community.
Anaheim Fire & Rescue had two booths at NNO, one to recruit residents to become members of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), and another in which they handed out free smoke alarms as well as free containers in which to dispose of used motor oil for recycling.
Two to three times a day, AF&R personnel find and properly dispose of used motor oil careless residents leave in alleys, on streets, and elsewhere, said Hazardous Materials Specialist Russ Siems. He and other AF&R staffers handed out information about where people can bring used oil and filters for recycling.
Det. Cesar Aguilar, of the APD’s Burglary/Auto Theft Detail, answered questions about protecting homes from being burglarized, and distributed information on how to avoid “porch pirates.”
The Robbery and Assault Detail booth had visuals that attracted many people, including photos of bank robbery suspects and a display of weapons confiscated by APD detectives, including a machete, an axe, a butterfly knife, switchblades, brass knuckles, and some medieval-looking steel ball with spikes on a chain.
“Those are very dangerous!” one boy said as he gawked at the weapons.
Dispatchers who work in the APD’s Communication Division explained to visitors how to properly use 911, and stressed the importance of telling dispatchers their precise address should they ever need to call because of an emergency.
“This is a good way for members of our agency to meet residents face to face,” said Kaelynn Craddick, an APD dispatcher of two years who was attending her first NNO.
“It brings the community together,” Craddick said.