The wide smile on the face of eight-year-old Joel Quintana signaled his feeling of importance as Ceres Police Sgt. Trenton Johnson let him try on a heavy SWAT vest during the Tuesday evening, August 2 National Night Out event.
"They all play ‘Call of Duty' so they all know they're called SWAT vests," laughed Johnson.
The positive personal contact between the public and police officers was the primary goal of the national event, which was celebrated in Ceres at Whitmore Park. Held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the event featured chats with uniformed police, information booths, free food, displays of police vehicles, fun things for kids, and a canine attack demonstration.
Sgt. Jason Coley explained that the purpose was to create a stronger relationship with local police and Ceres residents. He said the event was downsized from prior events to "get back to the meat and potatoes of what this really is - the community talking to the police, to build relationships with the community."
One woman shared with the sergeant her suspicions about possible drug sales going on in a house in her neighborhood.
"Some people don't feel comfortable calling into Dispatch or sending an email. A lot of people will reach out to us on social media and I handle that too. It's a perfect opportunity, a neutral place for them to come down and talk to us about these issues."
The public had a chance to enjoy a free hot dog and drink, see the inside of the Ceres Police SWAT truck. Many also made a point to thank police officers in light of the recent attacks on police throughout the country.
"Really we've had more people lately just showing us support about what we are doing."
Councilmember Linda Ryno helped hand out hotdogs barbecued by husband Sam Ryno, a former Ceres Police sergeant. The hotdogs were supplied by Cost Less Foods and nachos by La Cascada Mexican Restaurant owner Jose Saldivar.
"I think we had a pretty good turnout," said Ryno. "We didn't give out as many hotdogs as we did last year but we still had a lot of people out there."
Information was supplied on the Code Enforcement Unit and Volunteers in Public Safety (VIPS) program and members of the SWAT team, patrol and detectives.
Present at the event was Frank Alvarez, 58, the city's code enforcement officer who was off work for months due to a serious accident in Southern California.