Billings Gazette Reporter Joins the Controversial American Police Force for Prison PR

Often hacks become flacks, though not usually for pseudo-military organizations that roll in to town in Mercedes SUVs bearing phony City Police emblems, as is the case with Becky Shay, former reporter with the Billings Gazette in Montana. The company she works for, the controversial American Police Force (APF) was part of her beat as recently as last month.

APF claims it is in Hardin, Montana to take over the new but empty prison. The tiny town made a name for itself (see TIME’s coverage) nationally earlier this year, when they offered to take on the inmates of Guantanamo Bay, if and when the government shut it down.

Just a week in to the job, Ms. Shay is in deep, dealing with the State Attorney General’s 9 page list of questions about the controversial founder of APF Michael Hilton. The AG wants to know more about the claims on APF’s site, and on Hilton’s lengthy criminal record in California, and about APF’s government contracts, and about the company’s deal with the economic development arm of Hardin.

In an interview and web story yesterday with the local TV affiliate (clip above), Shay says she vetted the company carefully before taking the position and is very happy about the terms:

“My terms were: I don’t want the moon and the stars, but I’d like to be able to see them from the patio,” Shay said. She is earning $60,000 dollars a year, received a signing bonus, a brand new company car and is getting help making the down payment on a new home.

“Here I am feeling the best I’ve ever felt about myself,” she said. “At a great point in my life.”

Regarding the barrage of questions from the media about the prison, “I will always answer any question that is posed,” Shay told KULR-TV. “It may be a response, not an answer.”

In the heat of the AG’s investigation, Shay hasn’t returned the Gazette‘s calls at press time, and TalkingPointsMemo reports that her voicemail is full.

Publish date: October 2, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT