Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell A. Higgins has a message for students: “Welcome to Your Police Department.”

The annual Citizen’s Police Academy for the Yale Police Department began Tuesday as 29 members of the Yale and New Haven community entered the YPD headquarters on Ashmun Street. The free program, whose participants range from Yale graduate students to Yale University workers, will take place weekly until Nov. 8. The program involves both classroom and hands-on activities, and intends to “raise awareness and promote an understanding of the types of service the police department provides at Yale,” according to YPD Assistant Chief Steven Woznyk.

“There will be no commercial breaks,” Higgins said. “You will leave here with a greater understanding of what we do and how we do it.”

Now in its fifth year, the program was former Chief James Perrotti’s vision, Higgins said. It was designed to reach out to the Yale and New Haven community, beginning when the YPD relocated from its old headquarters on 100 Sachem St. to the much more expansive Rose Center in the Dixwell neighborhood.

“We felt that people need to know what we do, and this academy lets us reach out to them,” Higgins added.

Yesterday’s event began with a welcome by Higgins and assistant chiefs Michael Patten and Steven Woznyk, during which all attendees were asked to introduce themselves. The audience, composed mostly of Yale students or staff, ranged from self-proclaimed “Law & Order” enthusiasts to citizens with active involvement or interest in security professions.

Patten then gave an overview of all aspects of the YPD, peppered with facts such as the story of its founding: two New Haven Police Department officers were assigned to build a rapport with Yale students after riots broke out in 1894 when medical school students were allegedly using recently buried bodies as cadavers.

Throughout the talk, Patten stressed the YPD’s continued commitment to building trust with the Yale and New Haven communities.

“Not only are we very, very dedicated, but we’re willing to help in any way,” Patten said. “We answer questions about where’s the best pizza, to more serious crime-related events.”

YPD bomb technician Charles Hebron also attended the meeting to talk about his work on the bomb squad. Hebron passed around various explosives commonly found in his line of work, including a PVC pipe bomb, a grenade and a cell phone-activated bomb.

“We get to see some pretty unusual stuff,” Hebron added.

Many attendees said they were pleased with the introductory session.

Camille Hardiman GRD ’13, a Yale graduate student in microbiology, said she was impressed with the chief’s openness.

“This really let me learn more about what police do and how they do it,” said Christina Casey, who is studying national security at the University of New Haven’s graduate school.

Future sessions of the Citizen’s Police Academy will include a speaker from the FBI, a tour of the police station and patrol car, and demonstrations of the Firearms Training Simulator and bomb dog Eli’s ability to find explosives.

Applications for the program are open to any member of the Yale or New Haven Community who is at least 18 years old.