NEWINGTON - A line of kids formed in Mill Pond Park, waiting for the chance to dunk a police officer in a tank of water.
The game - called “Dunk-a-Cop” - was one of the more popular activities at Newington’s National Night Out Tuesday.
There were also games of cornhole, a “meltdown” challenge course and a giant water slide.
The evening began with a brief thunderstorm, but that didn’t keep families from making their way into the park to have fun with police.
It ended with a giant tug of war game - police versus kids.
“Everybody seems to be having fun,” said Vaille LaChance, who came to the event with her husband, Don.
The couple watched as their son, Newington Officer Brendan LaChance, was attacked by K-9 Officer Argos in a demonstration for the crowd. They were joined by their daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Detective Shannon LaChance and 5-year-old Ava.
Meanwhile, across the park, Officer Dan McAloon was recovering from several plunges into the dunk tank.
“This was fun,” he said. “My granddaughter was the first one who dunked me. She’s been looking forward to it for a while.”
Public Information Officer Sgt. Chris Perry brought his family, including wife Colleen, daughters McKenna, 13, and Delaney, 10, and son Jack, 11.
Delaney smiled when asked if she was proud of her dad.
Nodding, she said, “because he does a lot of work.”
“I’m super proud of him, too,” added Sgt. Jason Saccente, who is fondly known by the kids as “Uncle Jay.”
Newington Parks and Recreation staff served hot dogs and ice cream and kept activities running smoothly.
“How can you not enjoy a night out in Newington?” state Rep. Gary Byron said, walking around with his family.
Representing the 27th House District by day, Byron said that the evening was a chance to catch up with friends he hadn’t seen in a while.
“Community policing used to be popular in the ’40s and ’50s,” Byron added. “Newington police are bringing it back. It shows the community they have families, too, and they like to have a good time.”
The town’s first National Night Out event was held last summer.
One of the main goals was to make residents more comfortable around police so future interactions wouldn’t be as daunting, no matter what the situation.
“The department is only as good as the support it gets from the community,” Police Chief Stephen Clark said, noting that this year’s turnout was better than last year’s. “My main focus tonight is to help build that community-police partnership. Give people an opportunity to meet and greet the officers and see them in a positive light.”
At least 15 officers attended, many with their families.
Friends Tricia Csefai and Karen Beaulieu took part in the department’s Citizens Academy, a 10-week program that gives participants an inside look into police operations.
“It’s been great to reconnect with the officers we met,” Csefai said while in the park Tuesday.
New Britain police and city residents also came together for a National Night Out event Tuesday evening.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.