National Night Out brings police and community together

TWIN FALLS — A handful of children gathered around a chalk body outline in City Park, their curiosity piqued. Nearby, a toddler revved a motorcycle and a gaggle of youngsters swarmed a SWAT truck.

Tuesday marked the eighth annual National Night Out in Twin Falls, a yearly opportunity for law enforcement and members of the community to mingle over hot dogs in the park.

The event, hosted by the Twin Falls Police Department, featured demonstrations and booths from agencies including the Twin Falls Fire Department, Idaho State Police, the Kimberly-Hansen Police Department, Magic Valley paramedics and the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office. The night was sponsored by TFPD, National Association of Town Watch and Target.

“We want police and the community to come together under positive circumstances,” Twin Falls Police Officer J.P. O’Donnell said. “It’s a stress-free opportunity where community members can come out and see what the police department does and why we do what we do.”

The park was lively with young families Tuesday evening. They wandered from booth to booth, picking up brightly colored frisbees from 911 dispatchers, pausing to take a closer look at a table of drones, and excitedly pointing out the bomb squad robot rolling among them.

A fluffy golden retriever named Ringo bounded out of a K-9 car to say hello to some children who had gathered. Ringo spends most of her days on the job sniffing out heroin, cocaine, meth and marijuana, her handler, Cody Christensen, said. But tonight her only assignment was trying not to jump up on her new friends.

“She loves people,” Christensen said, “so she’s very active right now.”

A few dozen yards away, a Belgian Malinois named Enzo was demonstrating how to apprehend a “violent felon” — an officer wearing a padded suit and thick bite sleeve.

“I regret upsetting this dog!” the officer shouted, as Enzo clamped down on his arm. The crowd laughed.

The K-9 dogs were an undeniable hit, with a steady stream of admirers stopping to administer pets. But for 6-year-old Taylor Reynolds, the highlight of the night was climbing inside a real firetruck.

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“This is my firetruck girl,” her grandmother Cindy Wren, said. “Everything is firetrucks.”

Timothy Jerald Nelson, “almost 10,” was most excited about the Idaho Department of Fish and Game booth.

“They said if I’m going hunting and I see someone who’s not supposed to be hunting I might actually get a lot of money if I turn them in,” he explained.

Three brightly colored patrol cars, recent additions to TFPD’s fleet, sat in the middle of the park. Sophia Smith, 5, said she especially liked the pink Breast Cancer Awareness car.

It was Sophia’s second time attending National Night Out, her father, Paul Smith, said.

“She likes the idea of checking out the firetrucks and the police cars and understanding what they do,” Smith said. “And I just think it’s a good community event as well.”

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