“What should a bail enforcement agent wear?”
Believe it or not, this question gets more opinions on bail-related internet forums, social media sites, websites, and media outlets than any other. Almost everyone has an opinion on the matter, and they’re happy to share it.
Some agents go for the “tactical look”—fatigue-like pants with multi-pocketed vests (usually black or camouflage)—with the words “Bounty Hunter” or “Bail Enforcement” emblazoned on the vest. Others work the casual look—pullover shirts and slacks, sometimes with a badge or patch visible. Some BEAs go full-on professional—with a suit and even, sometimes, a tie.
I have pretty much seen everything, from people who resemble Wall Street bankers to guys who look like they came straight from a World Wrestling Federation taping. So, which one of these is the correct choice?
With the possible exception of the professional wrestling look, I believe that each has its appropriate place and time.
To my mind, the bail enforcement agent should present the image that allows him to most effectively accomplish his goal. And that goal isn’t always the physical arrest of their bail skip. It may be conducting surveillance, doing interviews, appearing in court, or transporting a prisoner. The image-conscious bail enforcement agent will consider what exactly he wants to do and dress accordingly.
The “Tactical” Look
The all-black/camo look (with requisite pocket vest) seems to be the one the public most expects to see. You’ll see it often on television and company web sites, and it’s also the style most lampooned by those wishing to evoke the comically scary “bounty hunter” archetype.
The tactical uniform actually does have its place, and it offers distinct benefits under certain situations.
When serving bond forfeitures, especially in what might be described as “high-risk” environments, the tactical uniform serves several purposes: It presents a semblance of authority, readily identifies the agent to both the public and law enforcement, and is the best uniform for carrying additional equipment (both lethal and non-lethal) that might be more cumbersome or harder to conceal beneath more casual dress.
“Tactical” gear does, however, sometimes elicit a more antagonistic response in some people and, in my opinion, should be avoided in all non-tactical situations.
The Casual Look
This is the everyday dress of most recovery agents and usually the most varied. Styles of dress usually range from jeans and t-shirts to khakis and pullovers. By far, this is the most versatile uniform and will allow the agent to move comfortably from one environment to another as his investigation advances. A pullover shirt with a company logo lends itself to a professional appearance that is not intimidating but still readily identifies the agent as someone other than just an average civilian.
The Suit and Tie Look
In my opinion, this is probably the most underrepresented manner of dress in our industry. Most recovery agents spend the majority of their time on the streets, so wearing a suit and tie isn’t always practical from an operational perspective, not to mention being downright uncomfortable.
However, a BEA should be ready to don more formal professional attire in certain situations. I have found, especially when appearing in court or arresting people at their places of employment, the suit-and-tie look lends itself to a greater degree of acknowledgement and deference.
It’s embarrassing to see a recovery agent appear in court looking like he’s ready to deploy to a war zone or attend a heavy metal concert. It lends very little to our reputation, and in some cases (depending on the judge), can be detrimental to what you’re hoping to accomplish.
Every recovery agent should have a least one decent suit in his wardrobe and should wear it occasionally just so he won’t appear fidgety and uncomfortable when he wears it.
In Sartorial Summary:
When I’m asked, “What should a recovery agent wear?” I’d have to say that it is “mission dependent.” Try to determine what you want to accomplish that day and where you intend to be, and dress accordingly.