The heavy heat didn’t deter families from flocking to Westminster Police Department’s annual Safety Day, held July 18 at Sigler Park.
Nor did it dampen the high level of enthusiasm of children and parents as they witnessed a very realistic reenactment of a police pursuit and hostage situation.
“This is something we would really do in real life if the situation called for it,” Deputy Chief Al Panella said.
Gathered around the field at about noon, community members could hear sirens as two police cars pursued a suspect vehicle around the park’s exterior and then onto the field.
Two suspects emerged – one with a hostage who he took into a nearby bus.
It wasn’t long before police K9 Pako set his eyes on the first suspect. After a warning from K9 Officer Travis Hartman, Pako ran after the suspect (who wore a bite suit) and nabbed the bad guy.
“So, it looks like we have one bad guy in custody already and let’s see how the SWAT team deals with the other suspect,” Panella said.
Suddenly, the crowd squealed with the deployment of a flash bomb – a SWAT tool that issues a very loud bang and bright light to distract suspects during standoffs and related police situations.
The SWAT team moved in with guns drawn, approaching the bus where the suspect still held a hostage captive.
“I’m sure that they’ll be able to [safely]take the suspect into custody and rescue the hostage,” Panella told the audience.
Not long after, the team emerged with the suspect in custody and the hostage safe and sound. And the crowd cheered.
Though the hostage scenario is certainly the highlight event of Safety Day, there were plenty of other activities and demonstrations for the public to see. The goal of the day is to show the community what local law enforcement, fire, and other city departments do every day to keep them safe.
“Every year, it’s always the highlight of the summer,” Panella told Behind the Badge OC.
Orange County Fire Authority firefighters also performed a demonstration with the Jaws of Life on a crashed car.
Vendors included the Orange County Sanitation District, Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District, the OC chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse, Westminster Family Resource Center, American Red Cross, California Highway Patrol and more.
Community members also had the opportunity to explore the SWAT vehicle and take pictures with K9 Pako after the demonstration.
Sgt. Scott Gump, a member of West County SWAT and part of the demonstration, heads up the agency’s explorer program. The explorers were also on site conducting digital fingerprinting for kids. Gump said the event is a great outlet for community interactions, not only for the WPD but also all the other departments that help keep the community safe.
“They love taking photos with us afterwards,” he said, still dressed in the black SWAT uniform despite the heat.
Sgt. Kevin MacCormick, also part of West County SWAT, said the event serves the important function of giving the public a taste of what they do as police officers.
“We’re just like everybody else – we [like]to play, we just have bigger toys than they do,” he said, as he stood next to the BearCat armored SWAT vehicle.
Read about previous Safety Day events here: