Janesville58.8°

Families mingle with Janesville’s finest at Night Out

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Catherine W. Idzerda
August 4, 2010
— It’s one of the quandaries of childhood.

What’s the best way to look at a cop?


At Tuesday’s National Night Out, Janesville families got to meet the city’s police officers, SWAT team members, fire fighters and its police dog and handler.


Rock County Sheriff’s Officers had their own event in Footville, where families participated in similar activities.


This, of course, is fabulous territory for kids—to see an actual police officer up close, with all the cool stuff on their belts, like handcuffs and guns, and maybe they would get to talk to one. And there might be a sticker.


While other kids hung back, a little shy, Gavin Ketterman, 4, had no problem talking to any officer who would listen.


Should kids be afraid of the police?


“No, because they’re friendly and nice and they fight the bad guys for us,” Ketterman said without taking a breath.


But to be fair, Gavin has met Chief David Moore many times. Gavin’s dad, Brett Ketterman, is Chief Moore’s nephew.


Many of the other kids were clearly pining for a chance to talk to an officer, but it was almost too much, like that first visit to Santa at the mall.


Instead of the direct approach, favored by the older kids, the 5-and-under-set stuck with these techniques:


-- Staring out of the corners of their eyes.


-- Staring out of the corner of their eyes with their faces half hidden in their moms’ shoulders.


-- One child, who was really uncertain, went for the method that offered the most protection: Staring out of the corners of his eyes from behind his dad while clutching his dad’s pant leg.


Those shy stares were always met by friendly grins, friendly talk, and sometimes—could life be more perfect?—stickers.


That’s part of the objective of the National Night Out.


“It exposes families to the department in a positive way,” said Deputy Chief Danny Davis.


Chief Moore, on a break from handing out “Janesville Police Junior Officer” stickers, said police officers struggle with a unique predicament.


“Our work is very unique. We use very negative methods to do good things,” Moore said.


Events such as the National Night Out and the presence of police liaison officers in schools have helped kids and their families see police as a positive force.


The older kids in the crowd went right up to the officers. They mostly wanted to know when the Taser demonstration started, and a couple of them wanted to be the victim.


The SWAT team and the police dog demonstration were popular favorites, too.


Sgt. Chad Pearson said the kids he meets are usually interested in the basics: The handcuffs, the Taser, the gun, and most importantly, how many people has he arrested?


His answer?


“A large number,” Pearson said.



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