Baton Rouge, LA (FOX44) — Law enforcement officers around Baton Rouge tried to improve their image tonight. They focused on children who may not need help right now, but will know to trust men and women in uniform should they ever find themselves in trouble.
The Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, Baton Rouge Constable's Office, LSU Police, Baton Rouge Fire Department, and other agencies joined together to put on their annual Night Out Against Crime event Thursday at Milton J. Womack Park.
"I mean, it's just a great atmosphere," Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said. "It's great for the kids to come out and talk to law enforcement officers on a friendly basis."
Hundreds of people showed up, primarily families with young children. They had the opportunity to sign up for identification bracelets, to sit inside a fire truck, to pet both a bomb-sniffing dog and a horse from a mounted patrol unit, to watch a live-fire gun demonstration, and to speak with officers from the various agencies. The interactions made an impact on many of the children.
"They're really cool," Richard Bethely said. "I just went to ten booths with police officers, they're really cool."
"Good and nice people," agreed Joshua Davis.
Gearing the event towards young children was a clearly-made decision.
"All the kids, if you noticed," Dabadie mentioned, "they were putting on the drunk-driving goggles and driving the vehicle around, they saw the watermelon get shot here, and also put that subliminal message in there about gun safety, and you have to be careful with guns, and these are what they do."
The gun demonstrations were the most popular. First, officers pulled out a collection of guns and asked the children to guess if each was a real gun or a toy. None could reliably distinguish real from fake. Then, the officers rigged a pistol inside a sealed contained to shoot a watermelon, which exploded on impact.
Even though the watermelon's demise excited them, the children understood the message.
"Do not play with a gun," Davis stated, "cause if you play with a gun, it will shoot your friends, or your moms or dads."
And the longer they remember that, the more likely is it that a Night Out Against Crime becomes a life against crime.
"(We) want to get to them as quickly as we can, as young as we can," Dabadie said, "where they can understand that law enforcement is their friend."