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Police, residents get together at National Night Out
By Mike Sandrolini
MAYWOOD | National Night Out, celebrated annually in early August, gives residents an opportunity to meet and interact with members of their community’s police department to enhance community-police partnerships, strengthen relationships and raise crime prevention awareness.
The Maywood Police Department held its National Night Out last Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Park, where residents were served free food and refreshments, with free T-shirts, gifts and balloons for children and entertainment that included Big Ray & Chicago’s Most Wanted Band.
Several Maywood Police Department police officers were on hand along with Chief Val Talley and other police and village officials.
Let’s meet two of Maywood’s finest who attended National Night Out—one a veteran of the force for over two decades, and another who just started with the police department only a few weeks ago.
“WE CAN’T DO IT ALONE”
Dantist Zimmermann, a detective with the Maywood Police Department, has held a variety of positions over the years, including as a field training officer, a range master and a member of the S.W.A.T. team.
He’s experienced first-hand the advance in technology during his 23-year tenure and says it’s had “a great effect” on policing.
“There’s a lot of things that you couldn’t do in the past like DNA, residue off gunshots, a lot of stuff that you can test now with a perpetrator at the scene of a crime,” he said.
Zimmermann noted that the crowds are “a little smaller” at the Maywood National Night Out than in previous years, and encourages residents to get involved and join forces with the police department to curb and combat crime.
“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We have to have their help to solve a lot of crimes. Not too many people want to be involved with the police, thinking about what the other person or their neighbors might say.
“When we have crimes, we’re looking for them to help us out in solving crimes. A lot of times they don’t want to talk to us about what’s going on. We’ll get a few tips (on a particular case), but them coming forward and helping us and telling us what happened, we can’t get them to come to court (to testify).”
Zimmermann said the biggest misconception people have about police officers is “that we don’t care about them” or that “we’re just out there just to lock everybody up,” which he says is simply not true in either case.
“I think they’re (officers) talking to people more now,” he said. “The younger guys (on the force), they’re being more receptive to the people out there. They listen to what’s actually going on before they make arrests.”
With regard to what advice he would give younger officers or those officers just starting out, Zimmermann replied, “Be compassionate and listen to what the community is telling you. But also be firm when someone is wrong.”
“I WANT TO BE ABLE
TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE”
Lizet Ochoa is the newest member of the Maywood Police Department, having joined the force on July 14. She was introduced to the community by Talley at a village town hall meeting the next day.
She is a 2016 graduate of Kaplan University’s online criminal justice associate degree program and is gfworking on her bachelor’s in criminal justice.
“I’ve always wanted to be a police officer,” she said. “I wanted to be in law enforcement because being the first responder, you have an opportunity to present some kind of change in certain situations—to be there for the community, to be that person especially for the youth to give them direction. I wanted to be able to serve the community to make a difference.”
Ochoa is the first Hispanic female hired by the police department in around eight years.
“I don’t think of it as anything,” she said. “I guess for them (the police department) it’s good for diversity and I’m glad I’m actually able to bring that for the department. But I just see myself as a regular person, trying to become a professional in this field and do my job.”
Ochoa, who grew up in Berwyn, applied to Maywood and other police departments around the area before being notified that she had been hired to join Maywood’s police force.
“I was very pleasantly surprised (that I got the job) and I was excited,” she said. “I was enthusiastic and nervous at the same time, but it’s great.”
Ochoa is currently assisting the department at the police station while she completes a 16-week program to become certified as an Illinois police officer through the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Academy at Triton College.
“I’m getting to know a lot of the officers within the department and a lot of the personnel here,” she said. “It’s been a really good experience; it almost feels like a second family. They’re very supportive, very helpful, any questions I have, they are very accommodating.”
She said she enjoyed attending the village’s National Night Out celebration.
“It was nice, it was fun and it was welcoming,” she said. “It was nice to see familiar faces that I’ve already met. I feel hopeful that I can be a part of bringing some positive changes within the community.”