Veteran bail enforcement agent Joe Stiles rebuts a local news channel’s polemical “bounty hunters” piece:
“We are not frustrated cop wannabes.”
Last month, WAVY.com in Portsmouth, VA posted an article and video highlighting a fugitive investigation and arrest by Matt Arnold and his partner, of Finders Investigations in Norfolk. I was impressed by Matt’s handling of this case and by the quality and professionalism of the video. But I was rather perturbed by the criticisms he received from a member of law enforcement and another critic who “trains” recovery agents in Matt’s home state of Virginia.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably say that Matt and I are friends. We’re both active members of the National Association of Bail Bond Investigators (NABBI), where Matt serves as one of the Eastern Regional Directors. I know him well, personally and professionally.
The first thing people usually notice about Matt is that he’s a physically imposing young man. He clearly spends a considerable amount of time in the gym, and he seems to favor an unusual predilection for “body art.” (For the uninitiated, that means he’s sporting a number of tattoos.)
Don’t judge him by appearances. Underneath all that ink is a quiet, thoughtful, sincere bail recovery agent who is quickly making a name for himself and setting himself apart as one of the future leaders of our industry. For those of us who have seen our stars reach their zenith or in some cases start their decline, it is comforting to know that the next generation of agents will include Matt and other young men like him.
In the first segment of the video, Matt and his partner go to the absconder’s home and are told that the defendant isn’t there. But they gain valuable information about his possible location and a description of the vehicle that the defendant is driving. The second segment shows Matt and his partner arriving at the alternate location, locating the vehicle, and questioning a female at the residence. She tells them that the fugitive isn’t there. When they press a little further, the lady recants and tells Matt that she will “get the fugitive for him.”
Having received a verbal confirmation that their fugitive is on the premises, Matt and his partner enter, take the fugitive into custody, and safely escort him away from the residence. I saw this as a textbook, low-impact arrest and so was somewhat taken aback by some of the comments included in the piece—quotes from a sheriff and a purported state certified bail enforcement instructor.
"The sheriff...make(s) blanket and absurd statements about the powers of bail recovery agents and intimates that we are for one reason or another all just frustrated cop wannabes."
The sheriff seemed openly hostile toward our industry. He said that his department has received requests from bail enforcement agents asking for assistance in making an arrest, and he has flat-out refused them. This could lead a person to believe that this particular sheriff is perfectly content to allow dangerous and wanted individuals to live in his jurisdiction as long as they are only being pursued by bail or bail recovery agents.
He goes on to make blanket and absurd statements about the powers of bail recovery agents and intimates that we are for one reason or another all just frustrated cop wannabes. He never provides any evidence to back up his claims, but seems perfectly satisfied with his own erroneous assumptions.
The other critic—even more disingenuous that the first—is purportedly a trainer of bail enforcement agents. But to my mind, he immediately loses credibility by labeling the subjects of this article as “knuckleheads”—a derogatory term used to lessen the credibility or actions of the agents—but he, too, fails to give any instance or evidence of wrongdoing or poor tactics.
Basically, he doesn’t like the way Matt and his partner “look,” or the fact that they carry their firearms openly. As an instructor, he should have been able to factually critique their performance and offer evidence of any missteps that he observed. Failing this, he could have said that he might not have done things the same way. But I can’t find any reasoned argument or critique of the way things were handled. The fugitive was located and arrested within the guidelines of the regulations concerning our industry, and no one was injured. That is a successful case in anyone’s book.
Is this “news”? Titling a story “Bounty Hunters: Above the Law?” on the strength of insulting negative comments that are not fact-checked by the reporter? To my mind, these aren’t equal and opposing viewpoints. This is lazy reporting, and Matt and his partner deserve better.
As those of us who are dedicated to the future of our industry work to promote and defend our chosen occupation against charges that we’re wannabe cops or unprofessional and untrained vigilantes, we are reassured by the next generation coming after us, like Matt and others, that we will be leaving our profession in capable and well-qualified hands.
Read the original WAVY.com posts: