Delaware residents can step into the shoes of a local government official or police officer in free educational programs starting next month.

Delaware residents can step into the shoes of a local government official or police officer in free educational programs starting next month.

Enrollment is open for a new 11-week session of the Citizens Police Academy that kicks off Feb. 12; and a new nine-week session of the Delaware Citizens Academy that begins Feb. 14.

Participants in the Citizens Police Academy get a taste of life as a police officer in the Delaware Police Department.

Students participate in a mock traffic stop, building search and jury trial, and even get a chance to practice shooting a variety of police firearms.

"We cover a lot of ground," said officer Rita Mendel, "and there's more to it than just sitting in the classroom. There are a lot of demonstrations and hands-on opportunities."

Police academy students get the chance to practice pulling over a vehicle for a traffic stop, and actors will play criminal suspects during a staged building search.

In another lesson, students will examine evidence in a fictional criminal case, then participate in a mock jury trial with a real prosecutor and judge.

Participants also get to interact with the Delaware police K-9 unit and practice using equipment with the Delaware Tactical Unit.

The program also includes classroom lessons in which students will learn about criminal law, drug investigation and patrol procedures.

Mendel said the program is open to adults of all ages who are interested in learning more about criminal justice.

"We've had people from age 18 into their 80s, and from all walks of life," Mendel said.

"Some people just want to be active in the community and learn more about how we operate, and other people go through class who have wondered if they're interested in a career in law enforcement," she said.

Alumni have opportunities to volunteer with the police department long after the course has finished.

Citizens Police Academy classes run from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 12 through April 23. Space is limited.

To enroll in the free program, call Mendel at 740-203-1132 or email her at

The Delaware Citizens Academy, a separate program, takes participants behind the scenes of local government.

Participants will tour city facilities, talk with department heads and learn how Delaware is run.

"It's a comprehensive look at the city, and we do it in a fun and informative way," said Community Affairs Coordinator Lee Yoakum.

Students will learn how local police and fire departments operate, and participate in educational sessions focusing on engineering, city planning and public services.

The program spotlights how the city manager and other staff work in conjunction with City Council.

Participants also will learn about the history of the city.

Yoakum said the program is perfect for residents who are interested in running for office or otherwise getting involved in local government, as well as residents who are merely curious to learn more.

Former students include current Councilman Chris Jones as well as several other appointed board and commission members.

"It's an excellent way to learn about the city of Delaware and a great way to become more involved in the community," Yoakum said.

Classes run from 6 to 8 p.m. most Thursdays from Feb. 14 to late May.

To enroll in the free program, pick up an application at City Hall, 1 S. Sandusky St., or print one at The application deadline is 5 p.m. Feb. 8.

Space is limited to 20 students and fills up quickly, Yoakum said.