Hastings Police Sgt. Jason Haase teased the child stepping up to throw the softball as Haase sat in a wooden contraption Tuesday evening at National Night Out.
Despite Haase’s prediction of a miss, the ball struck the metal plate, which triggered a lever that tipped a bucket above Haase’s head. Cold water splashed down and soaked Haase and his police uniform while the child laughed.
“That is shockingly cold,” Haase said.
Haase was one of several officers who volunteered to take turns sitting on a wooden seat with a bucket overhead connected to a metal plate as children threw balls to topple the bucket. If a child couldn’t hit the plate in three tries, they were allowed to push the plate by hand, ensuring a soggy officer.
Even standing in a drenched uniform, Haase said it was a fun way to interact with kids in the community.
“I think it’s great that we can be seen being made fun of,” he said. “It’s like joining in when people joke about cops eating doughnuts. I like doughnuts.”
Another volunteer, Sgt. Paul Weber, said the activity was fun for both the officers and the kids.
“It’s for a good cause,” he said. “We just like giving back.”
The Adams County Victim Services Unit borrowed the water station. Director Jacki Norris said the water activity seemed to be a hit with the kids. They had hoped to bring in a dunk tank, but it didn’t work out this year. They plan to try again next year.
“We wanted to bring the kids and officers together so they could become more comfortable,” she said. “These guys are awesome for doing this. We’re really happy they were willing to do this for us.”
National Night Out is designed to give officers a chance to meet community members in a positive setting. Hastings police officers showed off patrol vehicles, fired off the sirens and handed out stickers for kids.
Detective Allen Sedlak made balloon animals and hats for kids. Hastings Fire and Rescue also brought vehicles for kids to explore.
The Nebraska State Patrol brought a Seat Belt Convincer, a device that simulated the experience of a low-impact crash to demonstrate the effectiveness of a seat belt even at speeds of only 15 mph.
Trooper Michael Heikkinen said troopers take the simulator to events across the state, targeting youth nearing driving age to reinforce the idea of always wearing seat belts.
“It’s a pretty jarring experience,” he said.
About 36 public service agencies had booths set up to talk about the variety of services available in Hastings. Many offered free items and/or games for kids.
Participants on a walk around the park, followed by a free barbecue with hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and water.
Organized by the Hastings Police Department and the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce’s Crime Prevention Task Force, the event is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for law enforcement, strengthen community spirit and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back.
National Night Out is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, Hastings Police Department and Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. More than 10,000 communities from across the nation and Canada are expected to participate in the event. People are asked to lock their doors, turn on outside lights and spend the evening outside with neighbors and police.
Officer John Adams helped organize the local event and said it’s a great way to continue to build upon the great relationship Hastings Police Department has with the city of Hastings. They brought supplies to serve about 1,000 hot dogs and hamburgers, about 200 more than last year.
“We want to continue to grow this event,” he said.
This marked the first year for Adam Story attending the event as chief of the Hastings Police Department. He said he worked with Adams and other officers to arrange schedules to allow as many officers as possible to participate.
“People get to come out and meet the officers,” he said. “It’s enjoyable to be able to interact with the public.”
Bruce and Ariel Noble of Hastings brought their children out for the first time. Their 3-year-old daughter Kimberly enjoyed crawling around inside the police vehicles. Their 1-year-old son Kyle just liked the different sights and sounds.
“It’s something to do with the kids so she can see all the fire trucks and police cars,” Ariel said.
For Brent and Karen Williamson, it was a chance to show their support for the Hastings Police Department, especially Brent’s son, Sgt. Kyle Williamson.
“I think it’s nice that people come out and support the Hastings police and fire departments,” Karen said.
The Williamsons also brought Kyle’s 9-year-old niece, Claire, and 7-year-old nephew, Kipton, out for the fun, hoping to catch Kyle under the water bucket.
“They wanted to dunk their uncle,” Karen said.