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Fifty students to participate in annual Youth Police Academy

More than 50 seventh- and eighth-grade students at Buffalo public and charter schools will be participating Saturday in the Buffalo Police Department’s 20th annual Youth Police Academy at police headquarters.

They will be welcomed to the day-long session by Lt. Steven Nichols, chief of the department’s street-patrolling Community Policing Bureau.

Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said the academy, which is free to all participating students, is designed to provide middle school students with a chance to interact with law enforcement officers and experts who will conduct session on such topics as healthy living, physical activity, drug and alcohol prevention, school bus and train safety, the operation of drug courts and gang avoidance.

At noon the students will go outside to the parking lot behind police headquarters to observe various types of equipment used by police, meet with K-9 Unit handlers and dogs and check out trucks used by the SWAT unit, the department’s Underwater Recovery Unit and the Erie County Sheriff’s Bomb Truck.

At 1 p.m. members of the department’s Explorers Post 102 will stage a skit on marijuana use and its problems and the students will learn how to join the police department’s post, headed by Police Officer Genevieve Rak, who is also overseeing the youth academy program.

In the afternoon Detective Earl Perrin will talk about how law enforcement deals with street gangs.

As the session gets underway about 8:30 a.m. the students will be treated to a free continental breakfast. They also will be given lunch and a mid-afternoon snack of cookies and bottles of water. The program will end about 3:30 p.m. with each of the participants presented with a community service certificate signed by Derenda.

Assisting Rak will be Iris Malpica of the Buffalo school system’s central staff; Lynne Chojnacki, a mother of one of the participating students; and Kate Baker, a Hamburg volunteer who just completed her first year of law school at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt.