The Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) convened a well-attended gathering marking National Night Out, an annual community-wide event promoting police-community partnerships with the goal of creating more secure neighborhoods.
Held on the 400 block of N. Rexford Drive, outside the city’s public library and fire department headquarters, the Aug. 1 outdoor block party brought together more than 3,000 community members who spent the warm summer evening interacting with local police officers, learning about BHPD’s law enforcement tools and enjoying the comforting feeling of community.
“From the city’s point of view, National Night Out is an opportunity to showcase the amazing equipment and people who take care of us,” Mayor Dr. Julian Gold told the Courier. “It achieves a lot. Of course, the police and the fire guys eat it up. They love that interaction with the community, and it makes their job easier.”
The recent program included a live demonstration with the police force’s K-9s, a static display of the police department’s Real Time Watch Center drones and SWAT team weaponry, informational booths featuring the city’s nonprofits and kids-friendly activities.
The theme was “K-90210.”
The event took place from 6-9 p.m. A Beverly Hills Fire Department truck sat parked on one end of the block while a BHPD mobile command center sat on the other. In between, on the closed-down section of Rexford Drive, booths exhibited materials from the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD), Public Works and other organizations.
As the sounds of Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls filled the air, adults mixed and mingled while their kids lined up for balloons, face-painting and a fire-extinguishing activity under the supervision of the Beverly Hills Fire Department. Food trucks served up a variety of items, and a DJ spun tunes.
“National Night Out is a great way for the community and the officers to interact and get to know each other,” BHPD Chief Mark Stainbrook told the Courier. “This year’s was bigger than last year’s and it looked to me like the kids and the families were having a great time! The Beverly Hills Police Department values the amount of community support we receive and we strive to give it back every day with excellent service.”
All evening, BHPD Acting Public Information Officer Sgt. Jeffrey Newman was busy meeting those who’d turned out. In an interview, Newman told the Courier the gathering underscored the close relationship between the city’s police department and residents.
“Our community is unique,” he said. “It is a community that has overwhelming support for our police department. Having that face-to-face interaction shows we’re one team. The whole mission is to send a united message to criminals that the police department and the community stand together.”
Conceived in 1984, National Night Out aims to enhance the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while nurturing a true sense of community. According to the National Night Out website, nearly 500 cities in California participated in the annual event, which is always celebrated on the first Tuesday of August.
Gold said the city has been involved with National Night Out since its inception.
“This notion of police and community joining together goes back decades, and we may have been one of the first cities in the country that reached out from residents to the police and created that kind of bond,” Gold said in an interview. “We were into it very early, and it’s very much a pattern of the city.”
This year, West Hollywood and Los Angeles also participated in National Night Out. West Hollywood’s program included potlucks, barbecues and block parties, and the Wilshire division of the Los Angeles Police Department threw a party and movie night at Poinsettia Park in collaboration with safety group Melrose Action.
Ahead of this city’s gathering, Beverly Hills officials publicized National Night Out through social media, and BHUSD spread word among school families.
Around 7 p.m., a live K-9 demonstration inside the fire station attracted a large crowd. Showing how the department’s K-9 dogs are trained in detecting explosives and narcotics, BHPD K-9 Officer Michael Downs led a demonstration where he hid an explosive scent somewhere in the station. Then, the hyper-intelligent Darco, one of the police force’s six K-9 dogs, followed his nose to the elusive odor within a few moments.
The discovery garnered a raucous round of a-paws—er, applause.
For Newman, events like National Night Out are crucial reminders of the human element behind policing as society grapples with increasingly antagonistic attitudes toward police officers. Ultimately, bringing ordinary people together with their local law enforcement is more needed than ever, said the BHPD sergeant.
“When you get to know an officer on a one-to-one basis, you get to find out they’re humans—brothers, fathers, sisters, wives, you name it,” he said. “When you discover the human nature of this work, it comes into perspective the important responsibilities the men and women of this police department have on a daily basis, and it encourages and fosters support for this organization and city.”