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NEWPORT NEWS -- Criminal activity happens at all hours of the day, and reporters often rely on a public information officer to get them the latest and most accurate information.

Joe Flanagan recently spent the day learning from the public information officers at the Newport News Police Department.

According to Joe, 'When you see video on the evening news, a photographer is on the scene gathering pictures and many times a public information officer is there disseminating information.'

Lou Thurston runs the PIO office for the Newport News Police Department. He had Joe training alongside Harold Eley, who has been a police officer for 28 years and a PIO for the last 15 years.

'When a situation arises and you have a homicide at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, you have to be willing to get out of bed and go to the scene and do what you have to do, and that's tough,' said Thurston.

Eley gets to a crime scene, shoots video and then quickly edits it and emails it to TV stations.

'I can have it on the noon news, and if we can get good pictures, and get it out to the media, we get phone calls rapidly. So that helps.' said Eley.

Working the cubicle next to Joe was another PIO veteran, Holly McPherson. She agreed that speed can be the key to nabbing a criminal.

'Social media, computers, we have citizens that are providing pictures to the media right away so it's instantaneous,' said McPherson.

It's a job that changes everyday.

'People all the time talk about closure to families and to victims' families. Well, communities need to get that closure sometimes as well and a PIO is a big part of that,' Thurston said.

These PIO's are highly regarded by their peers.

'They might have a priority of public information, but they're a part of our crime-fighting strategy,' said Newport News Police Chief James Fox.

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