San Fernando Police Department’s National Night Out was a big hit

The relationship between the police and the citizens they serve has been strained in recent years, but the 800 people who showed up for National Night Out in the city of San Fernando were happy to mingle with law enforcement. Calls to defund and even dismantle police departments have echoed across the country. But in this small and bustling 2.37-square-mile town of just over 24,000 residents in northeast San Fernando Valley, police are popular.

On Tuesday evening, Oct. 4, the San Fernando Police Department in collaboration with the San Fernando Police Advisory Council and Neighborhood Watch held its annual National Night Out anti-crime and drug prevention event. It was designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, strengthen neighborhood police-community partnerships, and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back.

The event is also a way for the police  to give back to the community and connect with people they serve. San Fernando Police Department Lieutenant Irwin Rosenberg said of the town’s relationship with its police department, “I think that one thing is that this event allows us to show how much we appreciate the community. It’s about the community being able to say: ‘Hey, this is our city. We want to feel safe here, and we are safe here. Those of you who would commit crimes or want to participate in crimes are not welcome in our city because we, the people of San Fernando, support our police department, the highest quality of life, and the highest level of public safety.’”

Journalist Lydia Garcia Pantazes was host of ceremonies, and the event included a special appearance by SAG and ALMA Award-winning television and film star Jacob Vargas. The department’s 1956 Chevy police car was another popular star.

San Fernando Police Chief Fabian Valdez talks with Maria DeJesus, 87-years old, who has lived in the city for 50-years during the San Fernando Police Department Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People make their way thorough booths during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

State Senate Majority Leader Emeritus Robert Hertzberg proudly displays a plaque given to him by San Fernando Police Chief Fabian Valdez during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas speaks during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

A boy wears a paper police hat during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Actor Jacob Vargas speaks during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

State Senate Majority Leader Emeritus Robert Hertzberg presents a symbolic check to the City of San Fernando during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Yvonne Pacheco sings the national anthem during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas speaks during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

San Fernando Police Explorers present the colors during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

San Fernando Police Chief Fabian Valdez speaks during the San Fernando Police Department Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

State Senate Majority Leader Emeritus Robert Hertzberg speaks during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

San Fernando Police Explorers present the colors during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People recite the The Pledge of Allegiance during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

San Fernando Police Explorers present the colors during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Officer Art Lesmez says hello to a dog during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Members of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians sing a traditional song during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People visit booths during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Host of ceremonies television reporter Lydia Garcia Pantazes speaks during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Police officers take photos with citizens with the SFPD’s ‘56 Chevy Police Car during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Police officers take photos with citizens with the SFPD’s ‘56 Chevy Police Car during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People make their way through booths during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

San Fernando Police Lieutenant Irwin Rosenberg speaks during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

A woman has her photo taken behind a cutout of a police K9 officer during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Children get souvenirs during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People take photo with Alcoholic Beverage Control officers during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

San Fernando Police Chief Fabian Valdez talks with people during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Officer Art Lesmez gives scout Romeo Jimenez a badge sticker during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando performs during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando performs during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando performs during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Officers talk to people during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando performs during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People meet law enforcement personnel during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People check out booths during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Officer Art Lesmez says hello to Idalia Flores and Jax Luna during the San Fernando Police Department’s Annual National Night Out event in San Fernando Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas said of the evening, “San Fernando’s National Night Out is a lot of wonderful people getting to know each other of all ages, but more importantly, we are here with the police department getting to know them. There are many amazing people enjoying the evening and enjoying each other’s company and the most important part is getting to know each other.”

Other elected officials and dignitaries included State Senate Majority Leader Emeritus Bob Hertzberg, State Assemblymember Luz Rivas, San Fernando Mayor Mary Mendoza, Vice Mayor Hector Pacheco, and San Fernando City Councilmembers Sylvia Ballin, Cindy Montañez (also the CEO of TreePeople), and Celeste Rodriguez.

State Sen. Hertzberg presented a $7 million check to San Fernando for repairs to the city’s water well system. When repairs are completed, the city will once again be totally water self-sufficient.

San Fernando Police Chief Fabian Valdez discussed the opportunity to foster relationships with the people his department serves, saying, “I like to use the phrase ‘relational policing.’ It’s talking to the community, the individual member of the community, and fostering that trust — that legitimacy. National Night Out allows us to be able to interact with individual community members so they can get to know their police officers, that are the police department, and build and strengthen the trust between the community and us.”

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People enjoyed music by Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando and dined on free hotdogs and cupcakes. Attendees took part in face-painting, got their picture taken with police officers, and visited booths that offered voter registration, souvenirs and Covid vaccinations. People chatted with the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Army, and representatives of the Special Olympics. The band Full Clip closed out the night with a mini-concert with 800 people in attendance.

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