Police officers, firefighters and rescue personnel gathered at Granville Gude Park Tuesday evening for Laurel's annual National Night Out.
Organized in communities across the country, National Night Out is an opportunity for law enforcement officials and first responders to meet with citizens and raise awareness about their work.
Laurel's event featured the Laurel Police Department, Laurel Volunteer Fire Department, Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Prince George's County Fire Department's bomb squad, as well as a number of community organizations. A disc jockey played music throughout the evening, and a moon bounce and climbing wall were set up on the field.
Several public officials made appearances at National Night Out, including Rep. Donna Edwards, a Democrat whose District 4 now includes most of Laurel; and members of the Laurel City Council.
"I'm glad we're doing it, and I'm glad the community came out," Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said.
The event highlighted crime-fighting technology and rescue procedures through a series of live demonstrations.
Cpl. Erik Eagle of the Laurel Police Department conducted a Taser demonstration and threw a flashbang, a non-lethal explosive used to disorient criminals. He also showed off K-9 Gaston, a German shepherd who sniffed out marijuana planted in a test car.
"We put dogs sometimes in dangerous situations and we want them to be just as productive as the officers," Eagle said. "They're really part of our family as well."
On the field, Laurel Police stood by a table displaying guns and pieces of SWAT gear. Members of the Prince George's County Fire Department were set up nearby, demonstrating a bomb squad robot.
Deputy Chief Clyde Williams explained the process of vehicle extrication to a crowd as members of the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad used the Jaws of Life and other tools to remove parts of a car. This was Williams' 16th National Night Out in Laurel, one for every year he's been with the rescue squad.
"It's a chance to hang out with the community and show them what their tax dollars and donations are paying for," Williams said.
Eagle said he thinks Laurel is the safest part of Prince George's County due to the positive relationship that law enforcement officials and first responders have with the community.
"We're all a family here," he said. "When you need us we'll be there for you."
Nia McNeely, 12, said National Night Out was the first time she had ever had a conversation with a police officer.
"It gave me an opportunity to know who they are and what their role is," McNeely said. "Everyone can get to know each other."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun