NEWINGTON - Ten-year-old Elizabeth Morris did something she had never done before in Mill Pond Park last week. She enjoyed a warm summer evening alongside her family and local police at the Newington Police Department’s first-ever National Night Out.
About a dozen officers took part in the event, in hopes of forming a closer bond with families in the community they protect.
“I never get to see a policeman - ever - unless there’s an accident on the road,” Elizabeth pointed out.
She and her 7-year-old brother Jack, 9-year-old sister Jane, and their mother, Frances, joined fellow residents for the fun, food and games the department organized for the occasion.
“Our police force works so hard; we thought it would be fun to come and support them,” Frances said.
Families were served hot dogs, ice cream and popcorn. They also climbed up and flew down a giant, three-story slide, played the popular Cornhole game and had a chance to chat casually with local officers.
Police Chief Stephen Clark hopes that this friendly interface will put residents at ease in case they want to reach out to the department for any reason, whether to report something or provide a tip.
“I would say that our first National Night exceeded all our expectations,” Clark said this week. “I can’t say enough about the hard work that went into planning the event by CSO DeSimone, Sgt. Zematis, and the Park and Rec staff. Our many sponsors were also a very important part of making this event so successful. All the support the police department received and the success we enjoyed are a testament of community policing.”
The highlight of everyone’s evening was a tug of war between kids and officers.
“Judging by all the smiles on their faces, we all had a great time,” the chief said of this exciting portion of the evening.
The Kakery owner Donna Bartlett is no stranger to the department.
“I make cakes for the police all the time,” she said, standing in line for food. “Whenever there’s a promotion or a birthday.”
But not everyone in town has regular interaction with officers. The police would like to change that, to bring back the close relationship they had with citizens in decades long past.
Newington residents Susan and Sebastian Bartolotta brought their 3½-year-old twin daughters Olivia and Isabela to enjoy a carefree summer day with the men and women in blue.
“I have a positive view of police and what they do,” Susan explained. “I know they get a bad rep but I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them. They work hard and deserve a little break.”
Lieutenant Michael Morgan went down the towering slide with his 4-year-old son Michael Jr., before Sergeant Derek Aviano and his daughter Molly, also 4, followed suit.
“This is a great time,” Aviano said afterwards. “We want citizens to get to know us on a personal level so we can become friendly faces around town.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.