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News and Investigations

News & Investigations

News Releases and Public Information

Welcome to the Polk County Sheriff's Office News Room, where the Public Information Officers (PIO's) post all of the information that they release to the news media. PIO's act as liaisons between news media organizations and the Sheriff's Office. The PIO's routinely release timely and accurate information and Crime Stoppers bulletins, and respond to routine and "breaking news" media inquiries. News releases and Crime Stoppers information can be found on this page.

PCSO's full-time Public Information Officers are Brian Bruchey, Carrie Horstman, and Alicia Manautou. The Public Information Officers can be reached by sending an e-mail collectively at

The recent news releases sent out by the PIOs can be found here, and archived releases (older than 2017) can be found here.

Feb 22, 2024

Polk County has first confirmed case of rabies in 2024

Media Contact: Brian Bruchey, PIO

This year’s first case of rabies in Polk County has been confirmed.

A Brazilian Free-tailed bat that was found in a north Lakeland business on February 17th and subsequently reported to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Section was sent to the state laboratory in Tampa for rabies testing. 

On Wednesday, February 21, 2024, the lab notified Animal Control that the bat was infected with the deadly viral disease.

“Make sure your pets are vaccinated, and always use caution when confronted by animals that appear sick, aggressive, or in distress. If you should encounter an animal that you believe could be infected by rabies, contact Animal Control immediately, and do not attempt to handle the animal yourself.” Grady Judd, Sheriff

Polk County only had three known cases of rabies in 2023.