ROCHELLE — On Tuesday night, the Rochelle Police Department hosted its annual National Night Out event at Atwood Park.
The country-wide event sees law enforcement invite members of the community to get to know the men and women of organizations like RPD. The event featured demonstrations by RPD along with performances by Rochelle Township High School’s Ballet Nueva Generacion, Studio C Dance and Ballet Folklorico Xochiquetzal. The winners of RPD’s coloring contest were announced at the end of the night, and the winners will get a pizza party with the officers.
Over 30 booths were on-site being run by local businesses, nonprofits and organizations that were doing giveaways and interacting with the community. There was free food and an on-site helicopter landing.
RPD Detective Sgt. John Kaltenbach led a taser demonstration and gave attendees information on protocols. RPD Officer Nate Brass volunteered to act as the perpetrator and was tased.
Officer Ryan Beery led a K-9 demonstration with K-9 Axel. Axel is in his final year with the department before retirement. Officer Jim Jakymiw assisted with the demonstration and showed Axel’s combat abilities.
RPD Chief Eric Higby said the event saw a good turnout Tuesday night. The event is put together by a group of 5-7 people at RPD and the city.
“It gives us an opportunity to interact with people,” Higby said. “When they call us, typically there's a problem and they're having a bad day and we don't sit around and talk about regular things. Tonight gives us a chance to talk to them and show them what we do and why we do what we do.”
RPD has a number of new officers on staff along with longer-term officers serving in new positions due to recent retirements. Higby said nights like Tuesday are great for officers to be able to make contacts and meet people in the community.
“It's good for them to get out and interact with the public,” Higby said. “I think it's very important for us to do things like this because if you know the name and face of an officer, I think you're a lot more likely to give information freely and establish a rapport with them.”
Higby said showing the community things like the K9 and taser demonstrations are invaluable. He wants to show people real-life applications and doesn’t want the public to expect what they see in TV and movies to be reality their own community.
“When we can come out here and give them our version of what we do and why we do it, it's perfect,” Higby said. “It's just the interactions with the citizens. It's great. The amount of people that you can meet and talk with on a day like today, we don't have another event where that's possible.”