Contributed by Mara Elliott, Criminal Justice Department Chairperson
Remington College – Shreveport Campus had the pleasure of hosting Chris Redford as a guest speaker for students in our Criminal Justice degree program on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Mr. Redford is a crime reporter with ABC TV’s local affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana, KTBS Channel 3.
His visit was coordinated by Shreveport Criminal Justice Instructor Mike McConnell, who had a working relationship with Chris while on patrol as a homicide detective with Shreveport Police Department. Mr. Redford talked about his role as a crime reporter and how he works with law enforcement and others in the criminal justice field in his unique position.
Here’s a recap of the visit, courtesy of Shreveport Criminal Justice Department Chair Mara Elliott:
“Mr. Redford (Chris) was outstanding! The students were so engrossed in his stories that you could hear a pin drop in the classroom. They didn’t want him to leave.
When I met him in the lobby, I almost didn’t recognize him. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt (to find out later, it was planned). He commented that he isn’t much of a talker and explained that, being a journalist, he is used to asking the questions to get information, not the other way around. However, he ended up speaking to our Criminal Justice students for 2½ hours!
Having him as a guest speaker provided our students with a whole new perspective and point of view on law enforcement and having a career in the field. For example:
He made students think about the field of criminal justice from the perspectives of our First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of Information Act.
Chris told our students that he had to learn where his integrity fell in terms of being loyal to the police (as opposed to informing the public) in conjunction with finding a killer and bringing justice to the victim or family.
For instance, Chris has worked with Shreveport Criminal Justice instructor and former law enforcement officer Mike McConnell on crime scenes, especially murders in the city and Parish. Chris explained that he built an honest working relationship with Mike regarding keeping shared information confidential. For instance, Chris would not print or leak certain details about a killer’s method of operation/modus operandi (MO) or certain details about evidence collected at a crime scene.
Chris talked about how he learned to ‘compartmentalize’ all the grizzly and gruesome crime scenes he has worked to ‘stay sane’ in this line of work and to write his newspaper articles or TV reports from a non-biased point of view.
He told our students they would have to ‘search their souls’ in this line of work and that, in the criminal justice field, it ‘doesn’t always have a good ending.’ He also said that some cases he’s worked on are still open because they haven’t yet been solved.
Chris mentioned how important it is to learn how to communicate with the public and learn effective questioning techniques for interviewing eyewitnesses, victims, law enforcement, attorneys, etc. He talked about understanding the oral and written communication process from interview to final report, including writing reports, interviewing witnesses, collecting information, and processing all of the facts so he could write his news articles.
He also explained the importance of the information collected with respect to the court of law. He talked about how he has been called to the witness stand by both prosecutors and defense attorneys and mentioned how often he has had to refer to and rely on his reports.
He related how he has learned to use informants, adding that ‘It’s not like TV portrays them.
He explained how to dress based on who your audience is. For example, he said that if he needs to interview witnesses or knock on doors in poor neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods, etc., to collect information and follow up on a story or case, he dresses the part, whether it’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt or a suit and tie, sneakers or shoes, etc.
The many topics Chris spoke about related directly to many of the main topics in our Criminal Justice curriculum. He succeeded in bringing the realities and real-life skills of his career into the classroom.
Our students asked many questions throughout his 2½ hours with us. He concluded by telling students that his bachelor’s degree in journalism, coupled with his internship and taking whatever jobs were available when he got out of college, led him to becoming a crime reporter. He told the students to take advantage of all opportunities and be open-minded and flexible in their career choice. Last, Chris said if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t change a thing.
Chris will definitely be back to repeat his guest speaking engagement for evening students, and we’re certainly looking forward to it,” said Ms. Elliott.