Port Washington’s National Night Out fosters relationship between first responders, community

Port Washington’s National Night Out fosters relationship between first responders, community
The Port Washington Fire Department and Police Department face off in a Softball match at Port's National Night Out. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

Interactions with law enforcement can tend to be stressful moments for many people, but National Night Out is intended to ease those tensions between law enforcement and the communities they serve by fostering enjoyable interactions to get to know one another personally.

Port Washington held its second annual National Night Out, an event intended to help build relationships between law enforcement, first responders, government officials and the community.

Present at the National Night Out included the Port Washington Fire Department, Port Washington Police Department, Sands Point Police Department and the Nassau County Police Department.

Sgt. Suzanne Petrizzo, commanding officer for Special Operations for the Port Washington Police District, said the origins of National Night out was to show that the community and its police department work hand in hand.

This purpose is continued decades later as Port’s National Night Out shows the unity between law enforcement, first responders and the community they serve.

National Night Out was brought to Port Washington last year by Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte.

She said she was inspired to bring it to Port Washington after seeing Manhasset’s National Night Out.

She said the event is a beneficial way for the community to get to know their local first responders beyond just the uniform they wear.

“It’s a way of bringing the community together,” Dalimonte said. “You only see police officers and firemen in their uniforms, and I wanted to the community to see the other side.”

Port’s National Night Out is planned by an organizing committee comprised of members including Dalimonte, Petrizzo, Littig House Executive Director Lynette Batts and Sgt. Peter Griffith, community liaison officer for the Port Washington Police District.

The event was held at Lions Park from 4-7 p.m. and featured an array of activities for children and families to enjoy some summer fun. This included field games, inflatables, live music performances from Bach 2 Rock students and TaeKwonDo demonstrations from Blue Moon students.

All field day activities were arranged by SPORTIME, the new operators of the Port Washington Tennis Academy. SPORTIME owner Daren Horig said they wanted to support the event as it is a great opportunity for the community.

Many healthcare providers also held booths at the event for community members to gather information about their services.

Free hot dogs and hamburgers were grilled up for residents to enjoy due to a donation from the Community-Police Relations Foundation and the Port Washington Fire Department.

Community-Police Relations Foundation is a charity that works to strengthen bonds between communities and law enforcement through events from coast to coast in the United States.

CEO Al Eskanazy said that holding events where community members get to interact with their local law enforcement is key to fostering healthy relationships between the two.

“That’s how community gets to know people inside of a uniform,” Eskanazy said. “When you look at a cop, you should be looking at the person not the uniform. People don’t have that opportunity because they’re usually with an officer because they got pulled over or a different circumstance. So we try to bring positivity, positive circumstances, positive opportunities by doing things like this.”

The celebration also featured a softball game between the Port Washington Fire Department and the Port Washington Police Department.

Firefighters donned red shirts and police officers wore blue shirts, but both featured the name “Wilson” and the number 58 on the back in honor of late police officer Brandon Wilson.

Wilson, a five-year member with the Port Washington Police Department, died after a car crash on the Northern State Parkway in January 2022. He was 34.

Brandon Wilson’s father Eddie Wilson threw out the first pitch at the softball game between the two first responder departments.

Port Washington Chief Matthew Kerin said the Port Fire Deaprtment works hand in hand with the Port Police Department, so everybody knows each other. This made the game for Wilson personal not just for the police members but also the firefighters who shared a community with the late officer.

Kerin said participating in a casual event like National Night Out provides a unique opportunity to engage with the community.

“We’re not just driving by in a truck or walking in a parade somewhere,” Kerin said. “It gives a lot of people the opportunity to say ‘hey I know him, he lives on my block.’”

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