Bail agents: Seattle criminals ‘actively laughing’ in court expecting quick release
While the bounty hunters in TV and movies do have roots in reality, being a bail enforcement officer requires a number of different hats.
The two bail agents admitted they do have to knock on doors, track people down, and occasionally use force, but the hope is always to resolve cases peacefully.
As Wimer described, once someone posts bond, they have an obligation to show up in court. If they don’t show up, that’s where Wimer, Rocha, and their teams come in. First, they will try to resolve the situation, call the defendant, call their family, everything they can do to get them back into court or reschedule for a new court date.
When someone isn’t communicating, that’s when they have to take a different approach.
“[If we arrest someone,] it’s our responsibility to safely transport them and book them into the jail that they were originally out of,” Rocha said.
Wimer and Rocha’s position as bail agents offers them an inside look at the criminal justice system.
“I really get a unique perspective between dealing with the judges, attorneys, prosecutors at times, their family and friends, and the defendant themselves,” Wimer said.
Ursula asked about the ‘revolving door’ of repeat offenders coming in and out of the system, in and out of jail.
“Right now, the requirements that they’re having for people to post bail is a lot, a lot less significant,” Wimer said. “Back when I first started, you couldn’t have 12 felonies and 37 warrants and still get released, and right now I see that on the daily.”
Wimer can tell criminals know they’ll be released shortly. She’s seen their friends laughing in the courtroom because they know “their person is getting out.”
“It’s fairly interesting and a bit embarrassing to watch,” Wimer said.
Rocha clarified that the bail system does ensure that the case will be seen through to the end, even with a quick release.
“[They] may get out through bail relatively quick, but once they’re engaged in our system, we’re going to make sure they see the case through, so they’re going to court,” Rocha said. “They’re going to answer for their crime. So it’s not a revolving door where they come in, go out, and never come back again.”
Both Wimer and Rocha see the risks, dangers, and fears of the job, each with their own memorable stories. Rocha said he recognizes it’s not a job you dream about as a kid, but it is a rewarding one.
“We refer people to drug programs, to housing programs, to social services [when they] might not know where to turn,” Rocha said. “We’re a realtor, we’re a social service person, we’re a policeman. … We wear a lot of hats in this industry, and it’s very gratifying at the end of the day.”