Harrisburg holds first ever “National Night Out” event

The rain couldn’t stop a block party at Sunshine Park in Harrisburg Tuesday night, and it sure did make a splash.

“Free milkshakes and free stuff, and just fun!” said Angela Gillis, a Harrisburg resident.

But beyond the good food, music, games, and face painting, the hosts of this party also had a goal in mind.

“People believe there’s a divide, a separation. I want to show them that police officers are human just like them, they go to work every day just like they do, we all do the same thing,” said Commissioner Thomas Carter with the Harrisburg Police Department.

The event is called National Night Out, and is held in many communities across the country.

It gives law enforcement and first responders a chance to interact with the people they serve in a fun way.

“So what does this do?" Fox 43 asked.

"If you were to get into a shooting situation this would stop a bullet from penetrating your body,” said Lt. Rick Finicle with Capitol Police.

Kids got the chance to sit in police cars, watch a k-9 officer in action, and learn from officials- something some parents say is an invaluable experience.

“To bring the community together, especially with the police officers. To build a better report, a better relationship. The kids especially. Some of them are being raised to fear them, but we want to love them. They protect us,” said Tajuanna Franklin, a Harrisburg resident.

And that’s just the idea- to teach not only children, but the entire community, that law enforcement and first responders are there to do good.

And from talking to some of the people in attendance, it seems as though that mission was accomplished.

“I’m proud that the cops did the for everybody,” said Gillis.

This is just one of many National Night Out events happening across Central Pennsylvania.

They’ve been happening for 35 years, but this is the first one happening in Harrisburg, and officials we spoke with say it certainly won’t be the last.