MILWAUKEE — Communities all over southeast Wisconsin held "National Night Out" Tuesday evening.
The community-building campaign brought hundreds of people to Johnsons and Kosciuszko Parks in Milwaukee.
"We come here every single year because we live around the corner from here," Janaiya Blue said.
She came to Johnsons Park with her best friend and her little brother. They were among hundreds of families and police officers who came out for food, friendship and fun—including kickball, horseback rides and checking out police gear.
National Night Out is back after the pandemic put it on hiatus in Milwaukee. Since then, the city saw a record number of homicides in 2020. Plus, the murder of George Floyd put police everywhere under a lot of public scrutiny.
The event is a chance for people to see police in a different light.
"Seeing us interact with the community when there's not a crisis, and we're interacting with them," said Milwaukee Police Capt. Steven Johnson. "They see us out there dancing, singing. We're residents as they are, it's wonderful."
"No drama, no people getting into it, everyone enjoying their time, having fun," Blue said.
Hundreds more gathered at Kosciuszko Park on Milwaukee's south side Tuesday evening as well.
Jeanette Torres says she works with Southside Organizing Center, which was one of many resource organizations available at both events.
Torres brought her four kids to the event Tuesday night to show them the positives of the police force.
"I want my kids to be comfortable," Torres said. "So this type of event makes it very positive for everybody, and to see the community so happy, and the police so happy and involved, it's amazing."
Police say this event is a small part of all the work they do year-round to try to build community trust.
"Every month I have a crime and safety meeting, and I've never had anyone say, hey, I want those cops out of my neighborhood," said Milwaukee Police Capt. David Salazar. "I have them tell me over and over and over is, I want your cops in my neighborhood to address what I think is important. And it's really important for us as police to try to recognize those citizens and try to do something collaboratively to try to impact that."