( 2 Votes )

Reserve deputiesHundreds of residents joined first responders at Pleasant Grove on Tuesday (Aug. 1) for Fluvanna County’s Second Annual National Night Out. Featuring a “bike rodeo” course, a cornhole toss, a bounce-house, a “family fun run,” sno-cones and music, it was a great way to pass a summer evening – but it was also a way to build community between citizens and law enforcement.

Building bridges is more important now than ever as public confidence in law enforcement has dropped to near-record lows in recent years. From national controversies like the police shooting that sparked riots in Ferguson, Mo., to the local debate over the teargassing of protesters in Charlottesville after the Ku Klux Klan rally last month, the perception that the police are working against the people has eroded trust in law enforcement.

Even in the best of times, people tend to only come in contact with the police in moments of stress. First held in 1984, National Night Out was designed to give the public and law enforcement a space where they could relax and connect without stress.
“This shows that we are actually human beings,” Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Von Hill told Charlottesville Newsplex. “We’re doing jobs that ordinary people are doing.”

People milled around checking out police vehicles and fire trucks from Lake Monticello and Fork Union. Some tried on “drunk goggles,” a headset that simulates what it’s like to function under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Also on hand were representatives of TRIAD, an organization that works with the sheriff’s office to raise awareness of crimes targeting seniors, and the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, which provides support for victims of sexual violence.

Attendance at the event was up from last year. Sheriff Eric Hess noted that moving to Pleasant Grove was a positive choice. “The county has this jewel,” he said of the park, “and this is a very good use for it.”

“We have started working on next year already,” said a celebratory post on the sheriff’s office Facebook page Wednesday morning.