On Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 5 p.m., multiple law enforcement and fire agencies were called out to Yelm City Park for major fun.
The public explored law enforcement and emergency responder vehicles, talked with officers, ate free food and received goodies such as law enforcement stickers and plastic fire helmets at the National Night Out event.
Twenty-five-year veteran Yelm Police Department Officer Stacy Field helped serve hot dogs and chips.
“This is a great event because neighbors are coming together with first responders and law enforcement,” she said. “So many people came last year, that we tripled the amount of food for this year.”
Yelm Police Chief Todd Stancil expertly commandeered the duty of grilling hot dogs, which were donated by Mr. Doug’s Family Restaurant. Mr. Doug’s also provided deep-fried corn dogs. In between hot dog duty, Stancil posed for photos with excited children.
The Southeast Thurston Fire Authority ‘s Station 21, which is just down the street from Yelm City Park, brought an engine, which was continually crowded with children, and a few adults.
“This is my first time participating in National Night Out,” said Brian Richardson, the captain of the B shift who joined the department in 2003. “It’s great to get the communities together. I think the more involvement we have with the public, the better.”
Yelm Mayor JW Foster said officers spend a lot of time talking with members of the community as part of an overall effort to promote goodwill.
“They often talk to kids in school,” he said. “They are trained to deescalate situations. Basically, they help people who are having a bad day. We all have bad days. They are trying to keep someone from having an even worse day.”
Sgt. Jeff Dehan, a 23-year veteran of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, said, “We can’t do our jobs by ourselves. Events like this are a way to network with the public and we can show that law enforcement aren’t the bad guys. We’re here to help.”
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office brought their iron beast, the SWAT team’s Tactical Rescue Vehicle (TRV), a vehicle that is used for “big boy crimes,” explained Dehan, a member of SWAT.
The TRV is a refurbished military MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected).
“For example, if we have a situation where someone has barricaded themselves in a house, and they are shooting at us, we can drive right up to their front door and we’re protected,” he said. “I’ve been shot at a few times and a car door isn’t going to protect you.”
The SWAT team draws its 25 members from several local agencies.
“You can hear the TRV coming down the road from miles away,” said Officer Field who also drives the iron beast. “It sounds like an earthquake coming towards you.”
One of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office other beasts is furry K-9 Dexter.
Children gathered to pet Dexter, a five-year-old German Shepherd who was born in the Czech Republic. Dexter’s handler, Deputy Joel Nault, said that “it took 400 hours of training with Dexter before we could go on patrol.”
Dexter showed off some of his skills, all while wearing red and blue Mardi Gras beads that would flop onto his muzzle during his takedown moves.
Deputy John Covais played the “bad guy” during demonstrations. Covais wore the bite sleeve that Dexter grabbed so the dog could subdue him. One of the kids watching joked that Covais should be in horror movies because he could scream “really loud like a girl.”
Deputy Nault said that Dexter’s two favorite activities are attacking the bite sleeve and flopping down with kids. Dexter amazed everyone by furiously attacking the bite sleeve, then instantly flipping the switch and becoming a sweet, loving pet.