Under the setting sun Oct. 3, the San Fernando Police Department held National Night Out, for a night of resource and safety information, entertainment, food and activities, all with the goal of improving the relationship between law enforcement and the community.
“It’s very important to have events like these,” San Fernando Police Chief Fabian Valdez said. “These are celebrations of community. It’s not celebrating the police department. It’s not celebrating any one individual. This is celebrating the relationship between the San Fernando Police Department and our community stakeholders.”
National Night Out, which began in 1984, is an annual event meant to promote police-community partnerships. The event has been held in San Fernando for around 10 years; for Valdez, it’s his second year as the city’s police chief and one that he feels was a significant improvement over the previous year.
“Last year, we were coming out of the COVID-19 [pandemic],” Valdez said. “I think this year, people are a little more relaxed, COVID is not as big an issue now. People have a better idea of who I am, so I think there’s a little more intimate interaction between me and several community members.”
The San Fernando Neighborhood Watch, Boy Scouts of America, Odd Fellows of San Fernando, the San Fernando Law Enforcement Explorer Post 521 and the San Fernando Valley Partnership were among the organizations with booths set up in the civic center parking lot.
Acting Lt. Pete Aguirre and Sgt. CJ Chiasson sang the praises of the local neighborhood watch group.
“It’s a really great way for community members to stay plugged in and get a lot of high-level information about events in the community, in particular crimes and how we as a police department respond to those types of crimes,” Aguirre said. “It really gives the community one more opportunity to interact in a positive way with the police department.”
Several elected officials took to the main stage to give their support to the local police department, including San Fernando Mayor Celeste Rodriguez, Vice Mayor Mary Mendoza, Councilmember Mary Solorio, State Sen. Caroline Menjivar and Assemblymember Luz Rivas.
“We love that we’re getting together tonight, but we really want to recognize that every day is an opportunity to thank our police officers for everything that they do,” Rodriguez said. “They put themselves out there, they put themselves in danger for us and we’re so lucky to live in such a safe and beautiful community.”
“I’d like to thank our police department for all their hard work across the year, especially Lt. [Irwin] Rosenberg for, year after year, putting this event on and the team that took that on this year,” Solorio said.
San Fernando resident Gerardo Gonzalez has been coming to the National Night Out event for the past seven years. He said he brought along his 6-year-old son to teach him the importance of staying in the community.
“San Fernando is so unique, it makes you feel homey,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got everything [we need] here and it’s safe … so we feel good about walking around, going to the restaurants, to the stores. … How can you not be proud of what everybody in the community has [done].”
He said it’s very important that the community show support for the police department, expressing a desire to possibly become one himself, and is against those who actively don’t support the police.
“A lot of people don’t understand what they do or what they go through and all that,” Gonzalez said. “Within the community, we have to support whoever is going to come help you. Not only just the police, but the fire department… You never know when you’re going to really need them later on.”
Chief Valdez hopes to keep improving the event over the years and welcomes community input on what they would like to see in the future as the department continues to build that community relationship.
“The biggest takeaway I want the community to have this evening is that we’re here to serve them,” Valdez said. “It’s about service. It’s about meeting the needs of the community…and that’s my commitment to San Fernando, ensuring that the officers, the professional staff that work in the department are consistently mindful that our duty is to serve and protect and to be there for our community in whatever capacity we can.”
The next Neighborhood Watch meeting will be held on Nov. 15 in the City Council Chambers. For more information, contact Sgt.Chiasson at CJChiasson@sfcity.org.