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DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco, left, along with retired Southaven Police Lt. Jerald Wheeler, now employed with the Sheriff's Department, are launching the Sheriff's Citizen Academy.

Robert Long|DTT

Another set of eyes and ears to help prevent and solve crimes and promote the public's safety is the goal of the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department Citizen Academy, the Sheriff's Citizen Academy for short, which will be up and running in February.

Citizens often see things that law enforcement officers cannot and the new Sheriff's Citizen Academy will kick off Feb. 20.

"The public is our eyes and ears all the time," DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said during Thursday's unveiling of the Sheriff's Citizen Academy program.

"We're taking applications now," said former Southaven Police Lt. Jerald Wheeler who has joined the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department as coordinator of the Sheriff's Citizen Academy, in addition to overseeing and spearheading the Volunteers in Patrol or VIP Program, which is similar in scope to the VIP Program that Wheeler oversaw for more than 23 years at the Southaven Police Department.

"Jerald has a following from all across DeSoto County," Rasco said. "There is no doubt that he will help us in our mission to serve and protect the citizens of this county."

All applicants must live in DeSoto County and be at least 21 years of age. A background investigation will be conducted on each applicant. The DeSoto County Sheriff's Department reserves the right to deny participation to the Citizen Law Enforcement Academy based upon its investigation into the character of the applicant.

A photo ID must be attached to the application which can be picked up at the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.