Op Ed: My “Fake” Badge


Veteran bail enforcement agent Joe Stiles points out that a badge is only as “real” as the professional who carries it.

Perusing yet another article about a bail enforcement agent clashing with a sheriff—this time, in Minnesota—I spotted all the usual buzzwords that inevitably accompany such a report: “bounty hunter,” “unregulated,” and the most insulting of all to me, “fake badge.” Like many BEAs, I, too, carry a badge. I consider it an emblem of my position inside the criminal justice system. It is no more fake than that position is or, for that matter, than I am. Along with my sidearm and my handcuffs, that badge has been a trusted companion as I’ve walked some of the meanest streets in some of the toughest cities in the United States. It would only be fake if I abused it or failed to honor the authority and trust of the criminal justice system that I service—by engaging in wrongful or illegal actions.
The advantages of carrying a badge are many. It readily identifies me to law enforcement and the public at large as a man on a mission.
The advantages of carrying a badge are many. It readily identifies me to law enforcement and the public at large as a man on a mission. I’m not there to waste time or fool around. I’m there to perform a task—usually, the investigation as to the whereabouts of a wanted person or his/her apprehension. There are things I don’t use my badge for. I don’t use it to get out of speeding tickets under the guise of “professional courtesy.” I don’t use it to try to get free coffee or discounted meals. I don’t use it to get into movies without buying a ticket or for “courtesy” admission to local attractions. I don’t trivialize it by wearing it twenty-four hours a day, even when I’m not working, so that everyone can see that I’m “special.” And, most importantly, I don’t use it to defame the positions or denigrate the efforts of other members of the criminal justice system, or to initiate and support legislation to hamper them in their duties. So the question remains, “Is my badge a fake?” Well, maybe I’m not the best person to answer that. Maybe it should be asked of the hundreds of people who have seen it just before I put handcuffs on them and transported them back to whatever jurisdiction they fled. Or maybe I am the better person to ask. Because I believe that as long as I carry it with respect and honor and use it for the purpose for which it was intended, then my badge is a real as I am. And that is good enough for me.  

About the Author:

Joe StilesJoe Stiles is the owner of Bail Fast Bonding and Black Aces Bail Recovery in Knoxville, TN. With more than 26 years in the bail bond industry, he has worked as an in-house investigator, freelance recovery agent, posting agent, supervising agent, and owner of his own company. He served on the board of directors of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents and for two years as the chairman of their continuing education and internet committees. He currently serves as parliamentarian for the National Association of Bail Bond Investigators (NABBI).