A dunk tank set up at the Tancil Court location for National Night Out.
Photo by Vernon Miles.
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There was a tense moment between law enforcement and a member of the local community on National Night Out in Alexandria. Outside the Charles Houston Recreation Center, Deputy Devon Neckles watched as Sade Oshinubi raised her paddle and sent a ping pong ball flying across the table. Neckles returned, and the two went back and forth before Oshinubi finally curved the ball and it spun just out of Neckles’ reach. Several families had gathered around and cheered as the two went back and forth. Across Alexandria, National Night Out on Aug. 2 gave law enforcement officers like Neckles a chance to meet with the community they serve in a friendly capacity.
“This shows the community as a whole that we’re out here,” said Neckles, “that it’s not all bad interactions.”
“We have to change the narrative to fellowship and community,” said Poet Taylor, an entertainment correspondent for 95.5 FM helping to run the event at Charles Houston Recreation Center. “We’re hoping for better engagement between law enforcement and the community. We want to restart that conversation. They’re here to protect and serve, and a few bad apples don’t spoil the batch.”
A few blocks away, Gaynelle Diaz was running the activities at Tancil Court. Each location had a different set of activities. Children at Charles Houston Recreation Center had face painting and ping pong set up, while the location at Tancil Court had a dunk tank and a bouncing castle. The dunk tank in particular was a favorite of the local children.
“This is a great way for the community to get to know each other and the police,” said Diaz. Diaz has been helping out with National Night Out through ARHA for six years, but participated before that on her own. Some of Diaz’s best memories of the event was a couple years ago when a fire truck let a hose go loose, shooting the water up into the air and letting the children run through it. “It feels good. It’s nice fun. I hope people get to know their neighbors and form relations with the first responders.”
“It’s great,” said Michelle Robinson, a local resident. “It’s a great night to come out and have fun.”