Delaware residents seeking a behind-the-scenes look at city government can choose between two city-run academies this winter.
City spokesman Lee Yoakum said Delaware is seeking 20 to 25 people who live or work in the city to attend its Citizens Academy. Students will learn about and tour different city departments, including the city manager's office and the police and fire departments, during nine classes.
"We approach it as sort of a Government 101 academy," Yoakum said.
Yoakum, who runs the academy, said his goal is to present information about city government in an engaging and memorable way, with tours and activities as well as meetings with city officials.
"We try to make each session fun and not get bogged down in the jargon," he said.
The city does incur some personnel costs for the program, but Yoakum said it also sees benefits from the academy. He said residents who attend the classes are better informed about the local government and can serve as "ambassadors for the city," helping their neighbors with problems or questions.
The deadline to apply for the classes, which generally are conducted from 6 to 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, is 5 p.m. Feb. 7. Sessions begin Feb. 13.
"We have had to turn away applicants in the past," Yoakum said.
Applications are available at City Hall and the city's website, delawareohio.net. Applicants must be 18 or older.
While the Citizens Academy touches on the work that the Delaware Police Department does, a similarly named program run by the department will give residents an in-depth look.
The Citizens Police Academy, which offers residents background on topics such as traffic stops, firearms and drug investigations, will be conducted from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursdays beginning Feb. 6.
Officer Rita Mendel said the decade-old program is one way to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between police departments and city residents.
"We started this academy thinking we could teach the citizens about us, but really they've taught us a lot," she said.
Mendel said academy students will participate in mock building searches and traffic stops. Although there's no real danger involved, she said it gives the students an idea of how harrowing police work can be.
"That's an adrenaline-charged moment when you first walk up to a car (in a traffic stop)," she said.
Students also will examine a mock crime scene and collect evidence to build a case against a suspect.
After getting a brief taste of police work, academy graduates often volunteer with the department, Mendel said, helping with parking and traffic at football games and parades, or shredding documents at the station.
Mendel said she makes it clear to potential attendees that the program is strictly informational and does not qualify them for police work. The department will not accept any applicant who has a felony conviction.
Applications are available on the city's website. The department is seeking between 15 and 18 students; applications must be filed with the department by Jan. 31.