Prior to working as a cop, I had several years of non-law enforcement familiarity working with bail bondsmen and fugitive apprehension professionals. During this time, I developed great working relationships with many proficient bail experts that later accounted for my wanting to pursue law enforcement as a career. It wasn't until becoming a peace officer that I slowly began an extreme dislike towards the bail bonding community.
I can remember one case in particular. I was totally pleased with the fact that this guy I just arrested was going to be off the streets and spend time in jail thinking about his immoral transgressions. Unbeknownst to me, it would also be my first experience with the bond system as a peace officer. Before I could even high five my partner for a job well done, our guy had just bonded out and was pulling out of the parking lot, hitching a ride with his bondsman, who incidentally had just made a thousand dollars for getting him out of jail. I was angry, annoyed and motivated to find out how this indiscretion occurred. "What just happened here?" I asked myself. How could what transcended from a three-hour police encounter turn into a ten-minute walk through booking to an air conditioned Cadillac Deville and a ride back home? What turned into many more uncomfortable encounters with the local bondsman later introduced me to one of the best informants an officer could ever have.
Bail bondsmen have evolved from the image of a gaudy suit-wearing, cigar-smoking, door-to-door salesman into the corporate exec who drives a Hummer™ and lives in middle class neighborhoods. Bondsmen are, in essence, small businessmen. Theirs is a unique private entity fashioned by the state to operate within the criminal justice system, but do not represent the interests of the courts or the interests of the defendant. It took a number of years to realize that from a law enforcement perspective, bondsmen can be your best-hidden arsenal when it comes to working with dependable and creditable informants.
As a general rule of thumb, most bondsmen will have their clients fill out various forms of documentation prior to their release. Some of the most frequent forms of documentation are a bail application, promissory note, surety agreement and fact sheet. Many times the subjects being released are also required to have a co-signer (many times a girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, relative etc.) all of whom could play to be important contacts when searching for individuals with arrest warrants or even other types of investigations. Many times, bondsmen will require their client to check in or stop by the office to ensure they have not skipped or fled the area. This is an opportune time for most bondsmen to update their client file with information which could be easily used in a type of joint endeavor with the proper type of rapport with your bondsman.
So, the next time you are thinking about attempting to serve an arrest warrant or looking for that much needed lead, it may be wise to put aside your initial outlook on the bail system and recruit the already obtained information of your bondsman. Chances are, the person you are looking for was previously bonded out and the bondsman already has much of the information you may be looking for, or may even know where your subject is.