National Event Connects Residents With San Diego Police Officers
Just days after a San Diego police officer was shot to death and another wounded in a southeastern neighborhood, a national event planned for this week is encouraging residents across San Diego County to connect with cops in their communities.
The annual occasion called National Night Out is a demonstration against crime and a relationship-building opportunity for law enforcement officers and the citizens they serve. The event comes after San Diego Officer Jonathan De Guzman was killed and Officer Wade Irwin was wounded in a shooting Thursday, and follows a series of rallies and violent incidents across the country that highlighted racial tensions between communities of color and the police.
The San Diego Police Department's Mid-City Division, where De Guzman once served, is observing Tuesday's National Night Out at three locations in Talmadge and City Heights.
One of those events will take place in Colina Del Sol Park near the office of the police department's youth-focused nonprofit program, STAR/PAL. The organization's Director of Program Partnerships Portia Dawson, who is helping to plan the Colina park event, says National Night Out provides positive interactions with police for the diverse City Heights community that includes many refugees.
"And so most people are afraid of the police. Period," Dawson said. "Because they come from a place where the police are not your friends. What our job is, is to make the kids know this is the place you come for help."
Sidney Michael, outreach manager for the nonprofit City Heights Community Development Corporation, says the deaths of young black men and police officers in recent shootings across the country, plus the loss of a San Diego cop underscores the significance of building connections between residents and law enforcement.
"So that's why it's important that folks come out to show their support. Because both sides are losing and they shouldn't lose. Both sides should be working together," Michael said.
The event at Colina del Sol Park will begin at 3 p.m. Another celebration scheduled at 4 p.m. will take place at Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park. The site across from the department's Mid-City Division on Fairmount Avenue is named for the cop who was killed by gunfire while on duty in 2011.
A third mid-city event will take place at 5:30 p.m. on the grassy area within a traffic circle at the intersection of 49th Street, Adams Avenue and Lorraine Drive. Each National Night Out observation will conclude with a community walk.
Residents in other city of San Diego neighborhoods can contact their local police division to learn about National Night Out activities in their area. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is will host events in 11 communities that same night. A celebration in Fallbrook took place July 29.
Departments in Escondido, El Cajon, La Mesa and National City have participated in previous National Night Out events.