New Rosedale Recreation Center Hosts Community Event
If one didn't know any better, Kenneth Ellerbe could have easily been mistaken for a football coach. The District's Fire and Emergency Medical Services chief stood at the 50-yard line of the Rosedale Recreation Center's turf football field and rifled passes to a group of eight and nine year olds.
Ellerbe's arm and confidence grew stronger with each spiral thrown and before long; nearly 35 yards separated the chief and the young receivers.
"I still have that arm, absolutely! I can still throw [at] 52," joked Ellerbe, who manages more than 2,000 city employees. "These young folks are the ones who we focus on the most. We had a well-run summer in terms of the Summer Youth Employment Program. There was a low crime rate and limited violence."
Ward 7's Rosedale Recreation Center hosted National Night Out, a nationwide community initiative that featured games and fun-filled activities in the hopes of bridging the divide between law enforcement officers and residents of the Northeast community, on August 7. Police from the Fifth District milled about, chatted with residents and enjoyed a hotdog or two with all the fixings.
While nearly 30 similar celebrations throughout the District occurred simultaneously and offered perks such as movies and prize giveaways, Rosedale's new recreation center, which opened on May 25, attracted District Mayor Vincent C. Gray and a host of other city officials.
"It really is an opportunity to celebrate the progress that we've made, but to also remind everybody that we can continue to make progress when the communities are working together," said Gray, 69. "It's great to see all of these people out here tonight and to see that so many law enforcement agencies have joined us."
Not far away, Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III made stops at four Maryland locations to support National Night Out efforts.
"I am proud that Prince George's County has over 100 communities participating around the county in this year's National Night Out," said Baker. "National Night Out is an example of the participation and collaboration that the Prince George's County Police Department undertakes throughout the county on a daily basis."
But back in the District, the fun at Rosedale could likely be heard several blocks away as top-40 music hits pumped through speakers and filled the air. A disc jockey kept residents swaying and a small crowd gathered in front of the two turntables to dance and groove.
For those less musically inclined, the evening event provided more than enough activities to keep everyone entertained. Roundball fans grabbed basketballs and tried their hand at sinking shots from two eight-feet hoops attached to an inflatable fire engine.
The screams of excited children pierced the air as they chased each another on the 100-yard field. Temica Gordon brought her 13-month old son Jaheon to the event.
"He's really enjoying himself," said Gordon, 27 as she watched her son play. "He loves the freedom to run around the field and all of the fun and games."
Not even 100 feet away from Gordon, Sharneaka Graham had her hands full with her two sons Kevin and Jacory, as they waited in line to have their faces painted.
"We wanted to take my little cousins to the pool but saw all of these events and stayed down here," said Graham, 20. "The boys really want to get their faces painted. They already had fun on the moon bounce."
While Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander was unable to attend, Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie made the trip over to Rosedale Recreation Center with his two young daughters, Kesi and Jozi, to join in the fun.
"I definitely wanted to come out and show my support and to make sure that we emphasize the importance [of] our communities [working] with our law enforcement partners," said McDuffie, 36. "Any opportunity I get to show support for our law enforcement partners, I try to make sure that I'm able to do it."
Despite the event's efforts to strengthen ties between law enforcement and residents, some remained doubtful.
"This is nice to have once a year, but we need more community policing," said Mike Clark, 58, who lives in Northeast. "I don't know if Officer Friendly still exists anymore. This is a nice event, but day in and day out, how many officers are walking the streets around here? This is a tough area. Officer Friendly needs to be more present."
But for Yvonne Smith, who has served as the Metropolitan Police Department's [MPD] Director of Community Outreach for five years, event's like last Tuesday's are necessary if the MPD wants to maintain a positive relationship with the community.
"It's our opportunity to come out into the communities all over the city and say, 'thank you for your partnership, thank you for helping us keep the crime rate down,'" said Smith.
"We like to do it with a little music, a little food and fun so that we can show residents throughout the city that police officers are not just about locking people up. This is the softer side of policing and this is that community engagement that is a necessity for a successful department."