Hundreds of area residents descended upon Portola Park on Tuesday, Aug. 6, to celebrate National Night Out with the La Habra Police Department.
The annual event, which helps build good community relations between police and residents, has been a La Habra tradition since 2015, though the event itself dates to 1984.
“This is an opportunity to interact with our community,” Capt. Dean Capelletti said to the crowd as they munched on snow cones and ate free hot dogs and hamburgers. “We are here to show you we are proud to be part of your community, proud to serve you, and proud to be here. We are truly a caring community.”
Portola Park and the adjacent Children’s Museum were transformed into a festive playground replete with games, a bounce house and demonstration booths from various area organizations and city departments. Children were able to board a La Habra police motorcycle at the park and in a special section of the Children’s Museum dedicated to La Habra police and fire personnel.
Abbit the Average, a comedic magician and juggler, performed alongside a live deejay providing the soundtrack for the evening. Talented officers also manned a table to make hundreds of balloon animals.
Officer Travis Nelson and the department K9, Rita, a 4-year-old German shepherd who was raised in the Czech Republic, demonstrated their teamwork. Nelson hid an object in the bushes which Rita soon found.
The special K9 is trained to apprehend suspects and find objects such as weapons and narcotics, Nelson explained.
“Rita is pretty well-rounded,” he added. “She is out here protecting the community, and she is definitely a proven asset to us and the community at large.”
Nearby, Detective Noah Daniels, School Resource Officer Nate Garcia and Detective Steve Highley worked an equipment table next to the SWAT truck. They showed off various pieces of SWAT gear, such as a breaching shotgun and battering ram. La Habra is a part of a regional SWAT team, North County SWAT, comprising officers from the La Habra, Fullerton, Brea, La Palma, Placentia and Cal State Fullerton police departments.
Daniels noted how events like National Night Out provide SWAT members a chance to show themselves.
“This gives us a face,” he said. “When we get deployed, it’s gas masks and armor. No faces, no nothing. But underneath the armor, we’re people.”
La Habra residents Chris and Shaylee Kneifl attended National Night Out with their 18-month-old daughter, Vienna. Chris said he supports the La Habra police and how they interact with the community.
“When we got married, we had ‘just married’ on our car,” he explained. “The police stopped us and said congratulations. It was super friendly. I’ve always had really good interactions with the police here in La Habra.”
At the conclusion of the event, which also included a watermelon-eating contest, the department hosted a showing of the movie “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
As in years past, National Night Out 2019 was a success, bringing the community and police department together.