National Night Out 2022 is a Community Tradition

By Cooper Drummond

MIDDLETOWN – On the evening of Tuesday, August 2, the City of Middletown Police Department hosted its own local National Night Out. It is an event that celebrates the building of a relationship between police and their community, which Middletown has held annually since 1984.

“Events like tonight are really valuable, and offers the community and the officers a chance to interact in a different environment than out on the street, in situations that may be chaotic, where people are at their absolute worst and dealing with their very worst day in the world,” said Lt. Jeffry Thoelen, the Bureau Commander of Operations for the City of Middletown Police.

According to National Night Out’s website, there are millions of people who take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all fifty states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide. Places almost always have it on the first Tuesday in August. There is typically some sort of festivity involved, such as a parade or cookout.

Middletown’s celebration took place in Thrall Park, a small open green space in the middle of the city. It included live music, a barbeque cookout, basketball, inflatable games, a video game trailer, face painting, a K-9 demonstration and an open display of various police vehicles.

Sadie’s Books and Beverage booth is set up with an array of books, which draws the attention during Middletown’s National Night Out.
Sadie’s Books and Beverage booth is set up with an array of books, which draws the attention during Middletown’s National Night Out.

“Kids are basically never bored,” said April Terry, who brought two younger kids with her.

“They have the resources and support they need to thrive even through the summertime.” She has never been present at National Night Out before.

“I love it, it’s really fun,” said Christine Sacci, a first-time attendee and resident of Scotchtown. Her daughter Maddy, who is in her late teens, agrees.

Police officers not only facilitated many of these activities, but also made an effort to partake in them. Officers would play pickup basketball with members of the community and would give kids a tour of being inside a police car.

That may have contributed to the dozens of families and advertisers showing up to Thrall Park, a time where communities in America have only grown more distrustful of law enforcement.

“After George Floyd and the social justice movement, police departments across the country realized that their connections with the communities was probably one of the most important factors in determining whether their police department had legitimacy and the respect of their community,” said Thoelen.

“It’s just an opportunity to connect with the community and let them know what we have to contribute in a very unique way,” said Catherine Yaa Yaa Whaley-Williams of Middletown. Her booth advertised Sadie’s Books and Beverages, which opened a month ago as Orange County’s first Black-owned bookstore.

“People can very easily get a bad interaction with a police officer. Events like this humanize the badge a little bit, and allows us to show that we are even though we’re police officers, even though we wear a uniform, we are part of the community. Our police department will not exist without the community, just like the community needs us,” said Thoelen.

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