“Policing is relationship based,” said John Hughes, Fort Jackson’s chief of police. “So having events like this where we can interact directly with the community helps build those relationships and ultimately makes it a place that everybody wants to be.”
Hughes spoke as a massive American flag fluttered in the cool evening breeze as law enforcement personnel from across the Midlands set up on Hilton Field for the 2022 National Night Out. National Night out is a national campaign aimed at bringing law enforcement personnel in face-to-face contact with the community.
One of the Fort Jackson Police Department’s major pushes is community policing.
“I want police officers outside of their cars,” Hughes said. It is the open windows theory, where “I want people to interact and put a face to the badge. So, I highly encourage every one of my offices to get out of the car, play catch with the kids and have positive interactions.”
Some of those interactions during the National Night Out was a parade of first responder vehicles through the housing areas, a Richland County Sheriff’s Department helicopter landing and a Military Working Dog demonstration by the 17th Military Police Detachment.
“While we might seem like we are isolated because there’s a fence around the installation, the reality is that we are partnered with everybody who is here tonight,” Hughes said about the participation of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies who were represented at the event. “Each and every partner who participates in this has a direct impact on everybody’s lives.”
“When we come together on nights like this, our ability to say, ‘thank you;’ our ability to think about how together we can do some collateral good here on Fort Jackson, but quite frankly, throughout the community, greater Columbia and throughout South Carolina,” said Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly, Fort Jackson commander.
The post’s partnership with Richland County and Columbia are the “obvious” examples of how beneficial the partnerships can be. Fort Jackson law enforcement officials work closely with the municipalities during emergencies.
Some of the other agencies represented were the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, South Carolina Highway Patrol, U.S. Marshall’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Even the Fort Jackson Fire Department was involved.
Will Sexton, a fire inspector with the Fort Jackson Fire Department who participated in the parade, said its necessary for first responders to be seen out in the community.
“Events like the National Night Out allow communities to gain familiarity, comfort and confidence in their first responders,” he said. “If the only time the public sees us is during an emergency, medical or police situation then we as first responders aren’t doing enough.”