It's story-time hour at the Lee County, Fl., Sheriff's Office. Every weekday morning, around 9, says the Naples (FL) Daily News, a half-dozen local reporters trickle into the press office to hear a spokesperson page through a stapled report — the compilation of last night's noteworthy crimes and arrests. Reporters tend to grab at the same things: Murder. Just about anything involving school kids. Large piles of money found. Animals abused or killed or miraculously coming home after long absences. In the background is chief spokesman Larry King, 48, a 12-year veteran.
A spokesman is now seen as nearly essential in even the smallest police agencies, said law enforcement veterans. King says his call volume has shot up exponentially. With the rise of the Internet, and the premium placed on local crime and traffic, his office of five is now a sort-of trough for news. At the same time, Lee's sheriffs have become ever chummier – or more accessible – with the news media. That means King's crew isn't just fielding reporters' calls but also filming public service announcements and pushing out story ideas that inform the public, or flatter the agency: e-mailing out DUI arrests, or staging a press conference around a suspected drug dealer's seized Dodge Viper.