Making it count at National Night Out

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, August 7, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

My family of five attended the National Night Out festivities held at King’s Fork High School on Tuesday night.

When we arrived, we met a police officer serving as a crossing guard so that we would safely pass from the middle school parking lot to the activities on the high school campus. As my sons passed, the police officer gave them both a high-five. I smiled as I caught a picture-perfect view of the officer greeting the boys and the smile on the face of a fellow female officer standing in the background. I looked over to my husband and stated, “I should have brought my camera.” I tend to see moments as snapshots that I wish I could keep like a polaroid film. I appreciate good meetings and documenting memorable moments. So, I took some time Tuesday night to just watch.

Email newsletter signup

After I received my free hamburger, a bottle of water and slices of watermelon, I sat alone near the curbside and watched my community walk by. I noticed there were several young people in attendance, many of them walking together in groups with their friends and schoolmates. I wondered if they were they aware that the police officers in attendance were there for them, to meet and greet them like the one that greeted my sons? That’s when the teacher in me came up with an idea.

My idea was influenced by a flashback to my days as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy when I arrived at my first duty station in Yokosuka, Japan. In order to ensure that I properly checked into my ship, I was given a sign-in sheet that had the names of all the officers and reporting stations that I was required to visit within the first two weeks of reporting onboard. There were similar sign-in sheets for earning certain qualifications onboard the ship. They were important pieces of paper, because if you lost them or a senior officer got a hold of them because you did not keep track of them, you were required to start the process over. The process taught a young officer the importance of accountability, knowing your environment and learning about the people that work alongside you.

Since the idea of National Night Out is to encourage partnership between our law enforcement, safety officials and our community, I thought we should develop a sign-in sheet for the youth as an incentive for the young people to engage the law enforcement officers. Officers from the police and fire departments, sheriff’s office and military could initial the sheets indicating that the young person properly introduced themselves.

Of course, it would not be fun unless there was a bit of competition added. Young people would participate in their age group. I would recommend starting at 4 years of age and extending the competition to citizens who are no older than 21. There could be four to five age groups. All sign-in sheets would need to be turned in at the end of the night to a designated area, and the winners of each age group would be announced in the newspaper with an awards ceremony held in the City Council office one evening. Local businesses can offer rewards to our winning youth. Think about the photo opportunities that would come out of watching these young people introduce themselves to their law enforcement community. The free food wouldn’t be the only long lines at the National Night Out events. Perhaps we would have to get Police Chief Thomas E. Bennett a tent and table for signing his autograph.

Our law enforcement makes great efforts to visit the schools and other events around Suffolk so that our youth know and recognize them. I applaud them for doing so. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the young people actually come to them? The fact that Suffolk recently experienced gun violence in our community at the hands of young citizens inspires me to consider what positive actions can we take to improve the climate and trust around law enforcement and our young people.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.