ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- After being cancelled last year due to the pandemic National Night Out (NNO) was held once more at the Abilene Police Department. Abilene Chief of Police Marcus Dudley Jr. says the response was tremendous.
“You’re contacting folks when they’re in their worst moment and this is one of those opportunities where we get to see our community at it’s finest.” Said Dudley.
In a profession like policing officers deal with people in difficult often tragic situations. in 1984 a program called National Night Out began in California. This program aimed to give local police departments a positive opportunity for community connection
That program came to Abilene around eight years ago and was originally held at separate locations across the city. Bringing the officers out into the community to meet face to face. In the past 5 years the event has become centralized at the Law Enforcement Center (LEC).
Since being sworn in back in January Chief Dudley has touted community relationship as an important part of his plan moving forward.
“I’m willing to meet people where they are. I want to go to where they meet.” Dudley said in a January 2021 interview.
Around that time Dudley pushed for the event to be held out in the Abilene communities as it once was.
“It’s much better for us to adopt a strategy that involves us getting out and meeting people where they are rather than having the expectation that they’re going to come join us” Dudley said in a separate January 2021 Interview.
This year was Dudley’s first NNO in Abilene. He says they held a similar program at his department in Aurora Colorado. Though he is coming around to the idea of the centralized location format. rather than separate community gatherings.
“I think that format works well but anytime we can get everybody in one centralized location i mean we have to welcome that as well.” Dudley says.
Those that did come out, like 4 year old Kaden Scott were able to make connections that his mother hopes left a positive impression.
“I talked to police and a fireman” Says Kaden.
“Kids sometimes are told stories about (Officers) that made them scared. Having activities like this brings them closer and they get to see that they’re just like us.” His mother Tyra added.
While many like the Scotts are happy to meet the officers where they are. Chief Dudley says hes not against the community approach. If that’s what the people want.
“If our community came to us and said hey chief we’d like for you to branch out and also touch specific neighborhoods it’s something we’d want to consider.” Says Dudley.