Kids get behind-the-scenes look at policing at National Night Out

Amanda Rodriguez of Perry, left, photographs her daughters, Jimena Rodriguez, 7, Lisette Rodriguez, 5, inside the back seat of a Perry PD patrol car, while Officer Laura Deaton looks on happily.

A steady stream of Perry-area children and their parents and guardians got up close and personal with officers of the Perry Police Department at Perry’s first National Night Out, a community-building campaign promoting police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

Begun in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch, the annual community-police awareness-raising event is held the first Tuesday of August, with the object of making neighborhoods safer, better places to live.

The first Kids Night with the Perry Police Department was sponsored by the Perry Hy-Vee and lasted from 5-7 p.m. in the parking lot of Hy-Vee.

Perry Police Chief Eric Vaughn was joined by Det. Jerome Hill, Officer Laura Deaton, Officer Taylor Rittman and Dispatcher Joey Loewen in greeting the youngsters and showing them some of the inner workings of police work.

The kids got a chance to sit behind the wheel of a Perry PD patrol car and check out the view from the back seat. Play handcuffs were deployed to give the young people a sense of the real thing, and officers demonstrated the lights and sirens that catch our attention.

Stickers and a free ice treat brought smiles to many young faces. Many parents said the Perry National Night Out was well timed, with tensions between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve much in the news lately.

Det. Hill said the impetus for Perry’s first participation in National Night Out came from Hy-Vee Community Events Coordinator Larry Vodenik.

“Larry approached us, and it seemed like a great idea,” Hill said. “We weren’t sure what sort of turnout we’d get, but it’s been great. We’re hoping this becomes an annual event here in Perry.”

Vodenik said he happened to see a program on television about National Night Out and thought it would be a good fir for Perry.

“We wanted to bring the kids and let them see that our police officers are their friends,” Vodenik said, “and that they are here to protect them. Everyone was invited to the event to show support for the Perry Police Department.”

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