Sheriff Launches News Studio to Provide ‘Fact-Based’ Information

Sheriff Launches News Studio to Provide ‘Fact-Based’ Information

By Stephen Owsinski

The way mainstream media has been treating (maligning) the law enforcement community in the United States is preposterous. So, like cops are trained to do, why not take matters into your own hands? Why not provide the skinny on real police work performed by real police officers via a real broadcast network whose audience can receive unbiased reports direct from the horse’s mouth? No anti-police fodder. No criminal coddling. No politicos pandering at the podium. Just straight-up, full-baked public safety info.

Lee County, Florida, Sheriff Carmine Marceno has done exactly that.

On June 29, 2022, Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) top cop, whose self-professed “law-and-order sheriff” exemplifies the credo by combatting crime alongside his deputies, perched on a newly-constructed studio stage and was interviewed by Public Information Officer (PIO) Julie Martin, covering the agency’s crime-fighting endeavors and community relations material.

Officially dubbed “Midweek with Marceno,” here is a tidbit of what the “Live With LCSO” studio looks like and how the broadcast was born, with credits to those who made it all possible:

In that brief studio spot, Sheriff Marceno underscored exactly the premise of the National Police Association: “Educating Supporters of Law Enforcement. Standing Against Anti-Police Rhetoric.”

Now imagine this concept spreading. Putting to pasture any chance of legacy media maliciously dogging cops by twisting words and taking things way out of context to bolster fiction and garner clicks (ad sales accompanying propaganda). Some so-called journalists gave rise to lies. Cops paid the price on the streets: accosted, ambushed, murdered by malfeasants who are fueled by media spin. Sad, really.

I sat through a hugely engaging podcast recently. Some of the subject matter went up, down, left, and right on the notion that “people are just checked out” after recent years and much more keen now. Each podcast guest concurred that “politicians are done!”

However, not all politicians are selfish promise-breakers. The ones in Lee County, as named by Sheriff Marceno, are examples of police-supporting elected officials doing what’s best for the people in the county. And that circles back to the Live with LCSO show hosted by PIO Martin.

Historically, PIOs were certified law enforcement officers who possessed journalistic skills (some graduated with communications degrees) and met the media at the mics. My agency’s PIO was one of our detectives who was “good in front of a camera.” The department subsequently gave way to a civilian PIO who was employed by the city in general; he had zero background in law enforcement…and it showed.

Soon after, the police chief took the podium position and fielded media inquiries. It remains that way today.

(Former police Chief Jane Castor, now Tampa mayor. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Police Department.)

Through my years as a policeman, never once did I ever meet a certified cop/public information officer who, despite being duly qualified and skilled at public relations, didn’t come prepared for the typical reporters desirous of something more salacious or bawdy than the straight-up Who, what, when, where, why, and how.

It became so dicey for PIOs to go out in front of cameras and microphone banks, and field questions from reporters hungry for meaty morsels, even when there were none available or when active investigations meant necessarily withholding tidbits. (Not every crime qualifies as an episode on “Snapped.”)

Commonly, media station personnel listen to police scanners and pick up on the happenings among the jurisdictions in their sphere of news coverage. When deemed a huge case, such as murder or armed bank robbery, some of our police command staff would reach out to trusted/respected reporters in advance of what is called a “perp walk.” That is, arresting officers walking the perpetrator from police HQ to an awaiting squad car destined for county jail delivery of one or more suspects.

It was typical for news station vans to pull up, hoist their mobile antenna, and scratch notes while taking in the presser. Camera crews record the footage you see live on TV.

When it was time for Q&A, some journalists tried feverishly to squeeze juice beyond what the PIO already offered (usually umpteenth times, staying within conservative boundaries and off the cover of the National Enquirer). Boy, do I remember media frenzies, with reporters clawing for material they already know is either inappropriate or legitimately confidential, etc.

Not much different than some defense lawyers trying to cull info from arresting/involved law enforcement officers waiting to be called for testimony in traffic cases. To their credit, however, some simply stated what they were going to ask of the judges, on behalf of their clients, usually in the name of paying court costs and a reasonable plea. That was generally followed by “Are you comfortable with that?” Mutual respect in some cases.

Speaking of mutual respect, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in-house studio broadcast was recently replicated by the on-the-road crew from the hit TV series “COPS” as they ride along with LCSO deputies responding to any manner of calls for service, further exposing the realities of police work and how professionals ensure public safety.

(Photo courtesy of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.)

Before the newest season of COPS kicked off in Lee County, Florida, Deputy Sin is “mic’d up” by a sound engineer employed by the show.

Given the atmosphere for many cops unfortunately working in hardcore anti-police jurisdictions governed by politicos who keep taking away from law enforcers, it is highly refreshing to witness a law enforcement agency reporting straight-up facts (in studio and in patrol car), offered by experienced police personnel, appropriately answering questions so that viewers have bone fide understanding.

As well, it must be reassuring for LEOs to realize that the entire Live with LCSO and Midweek with Marceno venture was wholly embraced and supported by county figureheads elected by constituents who deserve unadulterated versions of what their public safety professionals are accomplishing, versus the reconstituted mess delivered by legacy media.

It is no wonder those hard-pressed, made-to-feel-unwanted cops in liberal-run jurisdictions are either already transplanted here (or other states with pro-police pacts) or planning to do so. The support of pro-police Governor Ron DeSantis is unwavering. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is another staunch supporter of cops.

Sheriff Carmine Marceno is merely one among many fantastic law enforcement executives spread around the Sunshine State’s 67 counties, telling it like it is.

An aspiring police recruit back in the day, I remember doing due diligence on police agencies in the region where I live: gauging growth potential; size of the agency and potential room for advancement; modernized equipment; culture; continuous training opportunities; viable governance; adequately funded; community-relations oriented; educational requirements; and of course, crime data and how the agency is mitigating it all.

In that regard, I wish there were law enforcement-centric studios like the one the Lee County Sheriff’s Office launched. A great go-to source for cops and citizens alike.