Local police, residents come together for National Night Out

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police officers met with members of the community in South Florida and across the nation, Tuesday night, as they worked to build better relationships.

From Fort Lauderdale to Northwest Miami-Dade to Miami, men and women in uniform spent quality time with the people in their communities.

When a boy at one of the local events, his face painted to resemble Iron Man, was asked what the officers do, he replied, “They catch the bad guys.”

7News cameras captured officers dancing at one of the gatherings on a rainy Tuesday evening. The events, called National Night Out, have been going on for years, and they offer the opportunity for officers to get to know the families they serve. “We’re inviting the community to come, meet your local officers,” said Miami Police Sgt. Freddie Cruz.

Attendees said the event could not come at a better time. “You look at these communities, and they don’t have a great relationship with their local responders,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler as he addressed the crowd that had gathered inside a school gym.

The National Night Out get-togethers are taking place in the wake of a string of police-involved shootings, in cities like Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, where law enforcers have been criticized for discharging their firearms in a situation that, they argue, could have been resolved peacefully.

On the other hand, police officers have also been targeted in shootings that took place in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Monday afternoon, 24-year-old Antonio Jackson, who led police in a chase across Miami Gardens, was reportedly shot at by an officer before he finally surrendered. “They even get scared to stop for the police,” said Angela Jackson, his mother. “You’re gonna get shot.”

It’s a feeling the National Night Out events are supposed to combat. “They’re supposed to build relationships. They’re supposed to make things better,” said Fort Lauderdale Police Maj. Victor London. “That’s what I want the officers and the public to know.”

“A little bit grows too much if you keep trying, so we need to keep building positive images of law enforcement,” said Sabrina Butler with the Darius Butler Foundation.

The National Night Out events aren’t the only community gatherings taking place in South Florida this week. On Thursday, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel will team up with WSVN to host a community meeting, called “Hope and Healing,” at Faith Center in Sunrise.

Israel said the event aims to open lines of communication. “I can’t wait to hear what the community has to say, for the bishop and I to open up a dialogue, to have a real, meaningful conversation,” he said.

It’s the kind of conversation that takes place between parents and their children every day. When asked whether she fears her son will come to fear the police, Shenara Lindo replied, “Well, yeah, but you know, you have to make the best of it.”

“I’ve had police harass me for no reason, just because I’m black, standing on a corner,” said Randolph Johnson, “but I have some that’s all right. I want them to grow up thinking different, knowing that police are not all bad. They’re here to protect you. We’re all human. Race, color, it don’t matter. We’re all human.”

Copyright 2017 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.