Bail bondsman calls for tougher recovery agent mandatesPosted: Updated:
Not much has changed, by way of state law, since a group of bounty hunters forced their way into a Phoenix home in August of 1997 - shooting an innocent couple to death in what was said to be a case of mistaken identity.
While bail recovery agents can no longer enter homes without permission, Arizona's requirements to become one are still lax.
"You don't have to have weapons training; no education," said John Burns, president of the Arizona Bail Bondsmen Association. "You basically can go down, get your registration, go down to the local gun store, buy a gun, handcuffs and walk out and now you're a bail recovery bounty hunter."
For the past three years, Burns said he's been fighting an uphill battle to toughen the standards for bail recovery agents.
"I don't believe the Arizona Department of Insurance looks toward public safety," he said. "They're reactive when a complaint comes in. But, they're not being proactive to making sure the higher caliber people are bail recovery agents and bail bond agents."
The state's department of insurance is responsible for registering bail recovery agents - who are not required to be licensed in this state.
The only mandates: registrants must be at least 18 years old and "never have been convicted of theft, any felony or any crime involving carrying or the possession of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument."
Those who register must also submit to a fingerprint check.
"You go to California, they require pre-education and then continued education each year," Burns pointed out.
That's the case in most other states and that's what he wants to see happen in Arizona.
Burns has worked on several bills that would require bail recovery agents to be at least 21 years of age, reside in Arizona for at least one year, and possess a high school diploma or G.E.D. - along with 40 hours of pre-license training, to include courses on weapons safety and apprehension techniques.
He told CBS 5 News, it's education that might have prevented the mistaken identity case of a Phoenix woman in 2011 – where a bail recovery agent nearly kicked her fingers off as she fought off what she believed was a kidnapper.
"There are techniques you use, that if you're trained correctly, that would've taken her hands off that wheel well - without a single injury," said Burns.
But, none of his bail recovery agent related bills have made it through the legislature and Burns blames the department of insurance for blocking his efforts.
"People are put in harm's way when people are not trained correctly to do their job," he said. "And, I come back again and say Arizona Department of Insurance either stand up and do your job or get out of the way."
Burns suggests if industry regulation needs to be transferred to another agency for improvement, so be it.
CBS 5 News has made several calls to Arizona's Department of Insurance to get their side of the story and their take on the bail recovery industry. So far, those calls have not been returned.
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