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The Roanoke Rapids Police Department is seeking people interested in joining its Citizens Police Academy.

The academy gives participants an inside look at the operations of the police department as well as an opportunity to get hands-on training beside an on-duty officer.

The academy is also an opportunity to build up the department’s Citizens on Patrol program, interim Chief Bobby Martin said. “I think it’s a successful program. It’s an extension of us and gives us an extra set of eyes. They participate in a lot of functions.”

Martin said he would like to see a large number sign up for the academy. “It’s a way to get citizens in involved.”

(Applications may be picked up at the police station at city hall on Roanoke Avenue or from any member of Citizens on Patrol. Anyone with questions about the program is encouraged to call 252-533-2820)

While there are no exact numbers to show the number arrests the cruising of neighborhoods Citizens on Patrol has lead to, Martin said their observation “leads us to start investigations. The information they do give us helps in investigations and leads to arrests.”

The recruitment period for the academy will go through April. “We need to have enough interest to start Citizens Police Academy,” he said.

Once enough have signed up, classes will begin in April and run through June. “We would love to do two classes.”

The classes within the academy cover a range of topics — from learning how officers write reports to learning how to look at a situation and determine whether the activity is suspicious.

The class instructs the students on gang awareness, the hand signs gang members use and other signals they use to warn others of police or other activity. “We teach them community policing, getting out of the car and walking an area.”

Fingerprinting is taught, something which members of Citizens on Patrol use frequently when fingerprinting children for ID purposes at events. “They’re taught radio procedure,” Martin said. “They need to be aware of 10 codes.”

Potential students will undergo a background check. A felony record will lead to disqualification.

Candidates for the academy have to be at least 18-years-old.

The academy, Martin said, “Increases citizen awareness. It promotes an understanding of the Citizens on Patrol program. It’s more than putting them in cars. It gives them an understanding of what we do as police officers.”