Law Enforcement Wants Community Input at National Night Out

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Police in Eau Claire handed out free bicycles to elementary school kids as part of National Night Out, an annual event to connect families with the officers who keep their neighborhoods safe.

By Salina Heller

August 1, 2023

The annual community-building campaign promotes police and community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

Altoona Police Chief Kelly Bakken knows it’s important now, more than ever, to build trust within her community.

“Over the last few years, there’s been some negative stigma over law enforcement,” Bakken said. “We’re making sure we have positive support.”

“We need that support from the community in order to do our jobs,” Bakken said of her city of about 9,000 residents in western Wisconsin.

Bakken said Tuesday’s National Night Out creates a fun atmosphere for families and encourages positive interaction and relationships. “We need them to tell us their concerns so we can alleviate those concerns.”

Bakken said unfortunately interactions with law enforcement are typically under difficult circumstances. “We’re interacting with them when it’s the worst time of their lives–they’ve been in a car crash, they’re the victim of burglary, or in a domestic violence situation.”

Annually held across the country on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Off gives them an opportunity to interact in a positive light, she said.

What’s more, Bakken added, it’s crucial for law enforcement to have these gatherings as well

“It’s important for their mental health.”

National Night Out events not only feature law enforcement, K-9 units, and squad cars on display, there are often fire engines, kids’ games, prizes, bounce houses, local business vendors, music, food, and dance parties.

The website or Facebook pages for local law enforcement agencies or municipalities frequently have specific information on local events.


  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.

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