The Brunswick Police Department will host its second National Night Out Tuesday evening, part of a larger initiative to build strong relationships between law enforcement and the community.
The Brunswick Police Department will serve up free food, music and educational exhibits Tuesday evening at the town’s second annual National Night Out, an event meant to strengthen bonds between law enforcement and the community.
Brunswick’s event, part of a national campaign from the National Association of Town Watch, will be a bigger and better version of last year’s inaugural event, Police Chief Scott Stewart said.
“It was a bigger success than I anticipated,” Stewart said of Brunswick’s 2021 event, which drew several hundred guests. “A lot of people came out had a lot of fun.”
The free event’s highlights will include a K-9 unit demonstration, the opportunity to view several emergency service vehicles and an appearance from LifeFlight of Maine. Running from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Brunswick Recreation Center, National Night Out will also give guests the opportunity to soak their police chief in a dunk tank to raise money for breast cancer research.
Stewart, who came from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, said knew he wanted to begin a National Night Out tradition in Brunswick as soon as he became chief in 2020.
“I’m really big on community policing,” he said. “We’re already seeing the dividends.”
Outreach efforts like the department’s Coffee with a Cop program, which gives residents an opportunity to chat with police officers, and the Brunswick Kids Open Air Club, which brings kids and law enforcement together for a series of outdoor adventures, helps build trust between police and the community, Stewart said.
About 16,000 municipalities, now including Topsham, host National Night Out events each year, according to Matt Peskin, national project coordinator for the National Association of Town Watch. Since its inception in 1984, National Night Out has transformed from a collection of small family gatherings on front porches into annual block parties and parades across the country.
“The most important thing is people are together with their neighbors, and they’re together with first responders under positive circumstances,” Peskin said. “It’s not a burglary. It’s not a medical emergency. It’s not a traffic citation. That goes a long way in terms of people being confident in calling 911 and realizing that the cops are your friend.”
While police departments around the country have faced increased scrutiny and criticism following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in 2020, Stewart said Brunswick’s police department enjoys strong support from town residents.
Town Manager John Eldridge, who called last year’s National Night Out, “a great time,” credited that relationship to the department’s community outreach efforts, big and small.
“We’re in total agreement that it’s important that the police engage with the community and that the community get to know the police officers outside of what they read in the paper or see on TV,” he said. “We want people to understand that the PD is there for the protect part as well as the serve.”
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