The Evanston Police Department will hold its third annual Youth Citizen Police Academy on July 14-18. The free program is for Evanston residents ages 13-17 who are interested in learning about issues in law enforcement and criminal justice.Twenty-five participants are chosen, but the police department encourages anyone with a general interest in learning how law enforcement works to apply.

“[Our target audience] is those who have an interest…whether they want to pursue a career in that or they just are interested in the details and intricacies of the career and why we do what we do,” Officer Loyce Spells, the academy coordinator, said.

The academy is not a camp for youths who are troubled or need guidance, the officer said. Rather, the weeklong program includes a tour of police headquarters, a preview of SWAT practices, CSI training, and exercises in self-defense. Students also will receive a diploma and a jacket upon completion of the course.

“The students in the program will receive an overall understanding of the operations of the police department,” said Officer Spells. “The program will help create a greater awareness for the students of police roles in the neighborhood and community at large. In the process, students will receive information and strategies that will help them work with their … peers and citizens in general to improve the safety and security of the City.”

Officer Spells said the main purpose of the program is to build relationships between the Evanston community and the police department.

“One of the best things we can get out of this is the relationships that we create,” he said. “[The Academy] will build relationships and rapport between the police and community, particularly with the youth, where often times our relationship is not the best. It’s all about relationships in my opinion, and a responsibility of the department and the City to [build] relationships with the community [so it] understands the services we’re trying to provide.”

Applications for the program are accepted until July 11. Classes will run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.