Rod Decker is gone and I’m bummed. The KUTV-Channel 2 reporter who’s been yelling the news at me for nearly four decades retired Thursday. Things won’t be the same.
I liked Rod even before I met him in person. This includes back when I was a cop and loathed the news media in general.
In the beginning, if reporters called the department because they heard something on the scanner about an elderly motorist being injured, I told them the truth.
Me • “Yeah, I pulled this geezer over for suspicion of DUI. He was so drunk that he gave me a Polaroid picture of his wiener instead of his license. And then he drove off with me reaching into his window. So I punched him, grabbed his keys, and took him to jail where he blew a 0.29 BAC.”
News report • “Officer Kirby stated that he deliberately assaulted 81-year-old Mr. Hormel [not his real name] for showing the officer a picture of himself. Calls to Officer Kirby’s superiors have not been returned.”
Even when I wasn’t directly involved with the media on an incident, I often found it hard to correlate later the reporting with what actually happened. Sometimes it seemed all the two had in common was that whatever happened took place in the same solar system.
Talking head • “We’re live at the scene where a police shootout played a major role in snarling rush hour traffic, Paul. As you can see behind me … ”
Me • “What the hell is he talking about? Somebody hit a cow and I shot it. A ‘shootout,’ by definition, would require that the cow fire back. And traffic was already backed up when I got there.”
Rod was never like that with me. He was one of the few reporters I was willing to speak to with the clear understanding that it was always on the record. I could talk to him without worrying about getting burned.
I even rooted for Rod when he did a story on the prison’s tracking dogs. He put on a prison jumpsuit and, with a few minutes head start, managed to outrun and outfox the dogs. That was impressive.
When it came time for me to consider an alternative career to law enforcement, it was Rod and a few others whose examples helped tip the scales toward journalism. They managed to convince me that being a journalist didn’t require a total lack of personality.
But leaving police work didn’t stop me from becoming a Rod Decker news item. In 2005, after barbershop singers had their national convention in Salt Lake City, I had a little fun with their folksy enthusiasm to harmonize.
They sent me thousands of emails in which they called me everything from “a bad writer” to a “[vile word referencing a sex act].” They were so mad that the mayor’s office called and asked if I would apologize to them. Didn’t happen.
The following day, Rod called my house and said he was on his way for an on-camera interview. I was more than happy to talk to him.
Rod • “SO, MR. KIRBY, YOU DON’T LIKE BARBERSHOP MUSIC! WHY?”
Me • “Because I’m more of a rock ’n’ roll guy, Rod. That was before. Now it’s because they called me a [vile word]. I dare them to come back to Salt Lake again. I was just kidding around last time.”
Happy retirement, Rod. I’ll catch up to you. Eventually.