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‘Strengthen that bond’: Howard County National Night Out aims to foster unity between community and police

On a mild summer Tuesday evening, a crowd of community members, firefighters and police officers gathered in the parking lot outside the East Columbia Branch library in celebration of the 38th annual National Night Out.

The event, which featured members from the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Howard County Police Department and the Maryland State Police, was meant to generate participation and support for local prevention activities.

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Held simultaneously at nearly 20 locations around the county, including Clarksville Commons, Harper’s Choice Community Association and Monarch Mills, the event is part of a nationwide effort to bridge the gap between communities and the police.

The night kicked off with addresses from county Police Chief Lisa Myers; Howard County Executive Calvin Ball; County Council Chair Liz Walsh; council member Christiana Rigby; state Sen. Clarence Lam, who represents parts of Howard and Baltimore counties; and U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, who represents portions of Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Montgomery counties and of Baltimore City.

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“I just think that this exemplifies us coming together, us making sure that not just throughout Howard County, the state of Maryland, but the nation, the world sees that even though we’ve come through a time where we’ve felt physically distant [due to the coronavirus pandemic], sometimes socially isolated, we’re always still together,” Ball said. “We’re together to make sure that not only everyone in our community is safe, but everyone should be able to feel safe and that only happens when we come together and work together.”

The event featured family-friendly activities, a DJ, vendors from local businesses and community groups, food trucks, games, giveaways, and police and fire displays.

Deputy Lewis Tuggle, who has been an officer with the Howard County Sheriff’s Office for the past two years, said he thinks it’s necessary for communities to hold events like National Night Out.

“It’s important for communities to build that bond and trust with the police department and to get away from that mentality of low tolerance or no tolerance and to let people know that the police department and sheriff’s office are here for them and not to govern them, but to help them and support them,” Tuggle said.

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Abdul Elias, 46, of Columbia, said he wanted to attend the event to learn more about the community and the police.

“[I hope] the community will appreciate what the law enforcement is doing to keep us safe in the neighborhood and also learn more about law enforcement,” Elias said.

Pumtiwitt McCarthy, 40, of Columbia, who attended the event for the first time said she wanted to attend because it was a good opportunity to learn about the police.

She said she hopes the event will foster unity between the community and the police.

“Some communities lack that real connection between the police and law enforcement and the members of the community, and I think [this event] helps to strengthen that bond,” McCarthy said.

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