Adventures at the Law Enforcement Expo '07

July/2007: Recently, we were invited to speak at a law enforcement expo. They actually advertised it ahead of time (here, in fact). The presentation was a great experience, Frag showed off all the cool new law enforcement training materials that he's been developing and we met a lot of great people over the conference. The exhibit hall itself was beyond crazy. For those into video games, think E3 but with tons of law enforcement gear.

We're talking everything from hidden camera set-ups to riot vehicles, you name it. Hell, one booth even had the ubiquitous "booth babes" that are so famed for these sorts of expos. In short, the floor of the expo was very neat, the presentation went well and the hosts of the expo were very cool to hang out with. The VIP lunch we did had a lot of great cops there and it was a very interesting and unique experience.

Look, they even had a cool as hell sign.

Of course, advertising our presence ahead of time has a certain way of oh... bringing out the wackos. One such wacko is this reporter from Dallas, Texas, Byron Harris. Harris is one of these long-time reporters that hangs around. The type of mediocre reporter that sticks around in an area and becomes known in that area... but otherwise has no real talent in order to advance his career.

For example, one of his big new investigative pieces was on "fire ants." Literally, the guy reports about bugs at like, seventy years of age. In other words, while other reporters were breaking news about watergate in the seventies, Iran/Contra in the eighties or oh, hell... pick your scandal in the nineties... this is the type of "reporter" that is plodding around rocking mediocrity in the media for decades. No career advancement, no prestigious body of work.

WFAA in Dallas is an ABC affiliate, so you can imagine that hey... they don't like NBC. Amazing, isn't it. So you've got this old retread hack of a reporter working for ABC in Dallas. Of course the guy is going to try to throw pot-shots at the show "To Catch a Predator." What I didn't expect was for the idiot to try to crash a law enforcement conference in order to try to "ambush-interview" us. He actually flew from Dallas to Cleveland just to try to make an ass out of himself.

In all my experiences with the media, I've never been ambush-interviewed before. I've dealt with bad reporters, good reporters and the like, but nobody has tried the old hack "run up to a person and stick a microphone in their face at inappropriate times" trick of the trade.

Day one: first attempt at ambush interview
So the first day after the Chris Hansen keynote, this goof runs up to us and starts asking really stupid questions. I'll give an example of one of the questions...

Actual question: "Now you say you have X number of arrests and X number of convictions... so you don't have a 100% conviction rate." - Byron Harris

Now... this guy has been around the block a few hundred times, but apparently he doesn't understand the idea that when a person is arrested, sometimes the case takes a while to go through the court process. I explained to him what the difference is between a pending case and a "acquittal." It's a sad world when you have to explain to someone the difference between these two things. Of course, this guy isn't a reporter, he's an advocate. He's trying to slam NBC and Murphy for his local ABC affiliate.

Anyways, we do a short interview with him and he's trying to be all aggressive. Like he gets right up in your face and tries to make you angry with really stupid questions. That kind of thing doesn't make me angry, it just makes me think a person is an idiot. So after answering a few of his silly questions, we go to do some more conference things, do a few interviews with legitimate reporters, etc.

The conference organizers apologize for his rude behavior and we let them know it wasn't a big deal (and obviously wasn't their fault), we're used to dealing with weird people like that. No big deal, right?

Day two: He crosses the line with the second attempt
Anyways, I guess ol' Byron wasn't happy with the first set of questions he got to ask and wanted to try to make an ass out of himself by interrupting our conference presentation. I have some mental rules with reporters. If they show the slightest amount of respect, they get respect back. But this guy crossed all the lines. You don't try to interrupt a presentation to make an ass out of yourself. It's pretty obvious that while journalists have a lot of constitutional rights and can do in some ways, whatever they wish... there's still an unspoken "time, place, manner" rule that applies to such interviews.

He violated all of them. He comes running up to me while I'm sitting at a table waiting to start the presentation... and he does this at literally 12:58, two minutes before we're due to start. The entire thing was him grandstanding trying to interrupt a presentation we're invited to give. It's not the "Byron Harris asks really stupid questions" conference. He easily could have hung back and waited until after the conference to ask whatever new questions he thought up after the fact. First thing I said to him (which wasn't picked up on the audio) was that it was presentation time, not interview time, so he should go back to wherever he was.

Now, I can describe the rest of the confrontation, but hell, I figured... why not embed it on YouTube? I made a comment about him editing the confrontation and WFAA forced him to post the entire thing on their website. I had hoped they would do that, which is entirely why I made the comment to begin with when he tried to intimidate me with the presence of his camera verbally.

That's the confrontation. He comes running up to me like a little hungry mongrel and starts trying to conduct an interview two minutes before we're due to give our presentation. Then, while I'm sitting down... he has the audacity to tell me not to get in his face. At that point, it was comical to the extreme.

Note: If you run up to someone with a microphone and a camera who is sitting on his big fat butt, the last thing you should accuse the person you're running up to is "getting in his face." I'm sitting down and this moron acts like I'm being aggressive. I figure at the time, if he's going to accuse me of getting in his face, why not do it... but calmly and collected.

I don't think much of this person, you can tell from the video. While he's talking to me, I rub his suit jacket collar (yes, just to bug him) and he gets so angry that a piece of dribble from his mouth hits me square in the face. It was fucking gross. I couldn't believe this idiot couldn't keep his own saliva in his f'n mouth. He violated a very important principle in this world... "say it, don't spray it." Keep your bodily functions in check, please.

At that point, I wanted to tell him off but figured I'd do it in the hall as I knew the organizers of that event would frown greatly on his unprofessional act of trying to storm the conference itself two minutes before we're due to start it. Plus, of course, I wanted to tell him off and the hallway is better for it.

And I told him off. He didn't get one question off in that "interview." Why? Because he's a shit reporter. You can tell a shit reporter because that's the type that will run in without a plan in place. He just runs in like a goof and doesn't even have questions prepared. So I asked him questions.

The guy has been a reporter for thirty-five years and works at his local affiliate reporting on bugs and insects. I wanted him to think about his life. I mean, what sort of awesome journalist are you when you're all excited about going to Cleveland just to try to crash a law enforcement conference with dumb questions. I guess it's better than reporting on insects, but it's not much of a career. Anyways, the idiot actually stood there and answered my questions. His face turned red. He got angry. I didn't.

You'd think that if you're a reporter for that long, you're able to compose yourself. You're able to keep control of your interview. You're able to... oh, not have the interview turned against you.

At the end of the day, he made an ass out of himself and was kicked out of the law enforcement expo for doing so. He tried to harass us inappropriately while spitting on, literally and figuratively, the idea of "time, place, manner."

We went on and gave our presentation and earned a round of laughs when we noted "As you can tell, dealing with the media is sometimes exciting. We work with NBC. He reports for ABC. You can figure it out from there." Everyone in the room immediately laughed.

At the end of the day, with blowhards like this... that's all you really need to say. He works for an ABC affiliate. We work with NBC's Dateline on the To Catch a Predator stings. Beyond that, you don't need to give much explanation for the actions of a doddering hack reporter. People understand how these things work.

I'm very happy with the video, myself. I thought I'd come off looking angry or anything other than composed. Instead, I came off calm, collected, albeit very insulting... but hey, people shouldn't have to take the kind of crap he pulled and he deserved to be given "the business" about the kind of person he is.

From his reports, I can tell I got under his skin. He went on and on about me during the newscast. He hurled insults at the end of the video to the conference organizer. That's not the actions of a legitimate reporter. I got under his skin and he couldn't handle it. It affected his reporting and at the end of the day, he did a weak spot that made him look like he's an advocate with a grudge, not a reporter. You won't see a guy like Chris Hansen... or John Mercure in Milwaukee... or Kerry Tomlinson here in Portland get flustered like that. You won't see these sorts of people drop in on someone and do anything other than ask questions.

Guys like Byron Harris are part of the reality of what we do. You deal with good reporters and bad reporters. But there's nothing in this world that says you have to be nice to them when they're being jackasses. There's no reason to be professional with someone like this, such ridiculousness should only be answered with scorn.

Otherwise, the presentation was great. Driving from Chicago to Cleveland because the flight we were going to be on being canceled to equipment failure isn't... great... but whenever we get a chance to show the general public what exactly it is we do and how we do it, you have to be happy.

Compared to that, reporters who can't keep their saliva in their mouth or report past their own biases are meaningless.

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