Call it a festival with a purpose.
Westminster’s annual Safety Day at Sigler Park on July 20 provided an opportunity for hundreds of local kids and families to interact with the men and women of the city’s police department and get an up-close look at the array of resources used to protect the public.
The Orange County Fire Authority, which provides fire services for the city, was also on hand, as well as other city departments.
Safety Day is a way for police “to interact with the public and to bridge any gap there might be, and for them to be comfortable with us,” Cmdr. Al Panella said.
The youngsters, most from summer camps within the Westminster School District, were awed by a SWAT demonstration in which a police helicopter swooped down and landed in the park.
The SWAT officers then sprang into action and took a “bad guy” into custody.
When the demonstration was over, the kids lined up for a chance to explore the inside of the helicopter.
In fact, the kids checked out all types of police vehicles and equipment that were on display and got to say hello to Pako, Westminster PD’s K9 officer.
“It’s an awesome thing for the kids,” said Donna Ribard, a transportation supervisor with the school district. “They look forward to it.”
Police personnel, including Interim Chief Roy Campos, mingled with the attendees and posed for dozens of photos.
They handed out stickers resembling badges, made balloon sculptures and grilled hot dogs.
“This is interaction at its best,” Campos said. “We have a great department. I’m finding that out right now … both our civilians and sworn officers.”
The Orange County Fire Authority used an actual automobile to demonstrate its powerful life-saving equipment, cutting out the windshield with an axe, slicing up the hood with an electric saw and prying open doors with the Jaws of Life.
Sara Wallace, a Westminster resident, was enjoying Safety Day with her 8-year old son, Levi and 6-year old daughter, Jubilee.
Wallace said she encourages her children to have an appreciation for police officers.
“We love our police,” Wallace said. “We want to teach our kids that they are here to protect us and we support them.”