On Tuesday night, police divisions around Southern California — and the country — will roll out the welcome mat to members of their communities.
It's part of National Night Out, an event designed to build bridges between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve. Held the first Tuesday in August, it's been happening since 1984.
The events are intended to be fun, with free food and entertainment offered at many locations, but in a statement Tuesday underscoring the importance of community-building and public safety, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said National Night Out is an opportunity to build understanding, form partnerships and work toward a more secure city.
"Relationships are the foundation of safe communities — and we are living in a time when it is more important than ever to elevate the conversation about law enforcement in America, and strengthen bonds with the men and women who put everything on the line to protect and serve our neighborhoods," Garcetti said in a statement.
Michael Lopez of the LAPD sees it as a way for officers and civilians to get to know each other before an emergency occurs.
"Nine times out of 10, community members meet officers when they respond to radio calls in police cars," Lopez tells KPCC. "This is a way they can go one-on-one, ask questions and greet the police — and vice versa. We get to know each other and [they get] to see us as police officers. We're human beings just as well as anybody else."
Many divisions in the Southland will be participating. Some events are low-key. Others involve live music, food and entertainment.
Here is a list of some of the Southern California locations that are participating:
- The Devonshire Division will host an outdoor screening of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at Northridge Park. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the movie starts at sundown.
- In Hollywood, the evening will feature mariachi music, games and free shave ice from 5-8 p.m.
- Santa Monica is spreading the event around to four parks — Tongva, Clover, Virginia Avenue and Douglas — with games, information booths and raffles at each.
- Meet community leaders, neighbors, volunteers and officers at LAPD's Olympic Station from 6-9 p.m. Visitors can enjoy games, contests, crime prevention workshops and more.
- The Westfield Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks will include a bounce for kids and food from the farmer's market from 6-8 p.m.
- West Hollywood will host 12 separate events that will shut down some streets in the area, Tuesday from 4-11 p.m. Some street closures include Harratt Street between Palm Avenue and Larrabee Street, Norton Avenue between Laurel Avenue and Hayworth Avenue and Lloyd Place extending east from Elevado Avenue to Norma Place. For a full list of closures, click here.
- The Rampart Police Station will provide food and drinks at MacArthur Park beginning at 6 p.m., with live entertainment starting at 6:30 p.m. The night will conclude with a rally at the local police station.
- Head over to Manual Arts High School starting at 5 p.m., where there will be games, food and refreshments alongside public safety information, hosted by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
You can see an extended list of events on the police union's website.
Lopez didn't mention the recent police shootings in Baton Rouge or Dallas, but those incidents have impacted the way police officers see civilians and vice versa.
"With everything that's happening throughout the nation, this is a good way for the community and police to get together and try to solve problems," Lopez says. "We're here to help out the community. We need them as much as they need us. We need to work together to prevent crime."
This story has been updated.