Scores of Alhambrans of all ages came out for a chance to tour the Police Station, watch police felony apprehension demonstrations, and meet Police Chief Mark Yokoyama and other officers on Tuesday during National Night Out.
Among the most popular activities were a tour of the Alhambra Police Station, including the jail, shooting range, and the dispatch 911 call center. Each of the tours had up to 40 participants and were filled to capacity throughout the evening. Demonstrations by police dogs and of a high risk, light-and-sirens felony police stop were also some of the crowd favorites, drawing “oohs” and “ahhs” from both adults and children.
Congresswoman Judy Chu presented the Alhambra Police Department with a certificate of recognition for its efforts in National Night Out. “Some people say that the Asian American community might be a little reluctant to interact with law enforcement, but these kinds of programs make the community feel much more friendly toward the police and fire departments and truly serves a positive purpose,” Chu said.
In the future, to deepen the relationship with the community, Alhambra Police Chief Mark Yokoyama said he would like to start a Citizen’s Police Academy in the Chinese and Spanish languages, modeled after the Department's current English language academy. He recognizes that language is the biggest challenge and that law enforcement needs to find ways to improve communication with all segments of the community.
“If the community trusts the police, they’ll pick up the phone or send an email because they have confidence that the police will look into it and do something about it. Events like this help us build that relationship and we need to continue to do that,” said Yokoyama.
Started in 1984, National Night Out is a nation-wide program by local law enforcement agencies to engage and reach out to their communities, with all of the events coordinated to occur on the same day. Last year, 37 million people in more than 15,000 communities across the country participated in National Night Out.
Press releases for the Spanish and Chinese newspapers and churches in the community helped publicize the event, which appeared to reach its goal of about 1,000 attendees, even though — as Officer Sharon Frasca-Williams noted, it was competing against the Olympics and the heat wave.
The Police Department’s outreach efforts appear to be having some success. When asked what he thought about the police, Christian Perez, 12, said, “They’re cool.”