I never dreamed of becoming a bail agent. It fell into my lap and seduced me with quick large sums of cold hard cash. What inspired me to stay was the discovery that I could really stick it to The Man! This brought me so much joy. When an innocent person minding his own damn business had a tail light out and then got shook down by some cop and a personal amount of marijuana or some other recreational drug would land you in jail, I had the magic piece of paper that could have a person out of custody within hours. The fact that I was part of an industry felt fake. Cops make arrests, there’s city and county jails, and the courts employ tons of people. It’s an industry like any other.
They say that cops and sheriffs hate seeing their arrestee get bailed out. However, it’s our constitutional right, and the hard truth is that we can never allow anyone with a badge to have too much control. Anyone can make an accusation; imagine that without the constitutional right to bail!
Let’s get one thing clear. Law enforcement agencies do not make us feel like they are to protect and to serve, they are unfriendly and they intrude and arrest. That is literally their job, to make arrests and to issue practical and monetary punitive citations. They are not trained to protect and to serve, they are trained to intrude and arrest. This facade they proclaim on the sides of their cars is blasphemy! What you think is a regular traffic stop is the cops’ number one way of making arrests. They are looking for trouble, and they are finding it. How uncool is that? We think we can drive around freely, but you better be careful.
Nowadays there are very few city jails and everyone goes straight to county jail. But back in the early 2000s every city had a station with a jail. I had the pleasure of visiting each one. Some cities had police stations, and some had sheriff’s stations. When I knew it was a city with a police station I knew it would go relatively smoothly. With any sheriff’s station, you have to really prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. It is made clear in training that jail facilities do not provide “customer service.” The key is to never let ’em see you sweat. Never.
Behind the glass
The very first bond I did alone was in Ventura County. A Sheriff’s County Jail facility. Just driving there was stressful because the freeways are pitch black and back in 2006 I didn’t have a car with navigation. The facility is in a small town in the middle of nowhere. The options of driveways were staggering as they were connected to a civic center, courts both civil and criminal, and offices all in a circle of plain wrap buildings in that industrial pinky beige color.
I finally pulled into the jail area parking. The process is that you call to get the bail information prior to arriving at the jail, but by the time you arrive at any given jail, a new jailer will be in charge and may have a completely different set of name, charges, and court date. The power of attorney papers I submit to jailers are just like checks, except much more strict. Everything must be written out twice. Your I’s better be dotted and your T’s better be crossed or the bond will not be accepted. The sheriff’s favorite thing to do is accept your bond, wait an hour, then call you and tell you that you forgot a dash or a period, and you need to come back and dot that i or rewrite the bond. At three a.m., of course. This rarely happens with police.
At a police station, you see the police sitting behind a counter — usually high up to give them a slight advantage. For close to two decades the police were always clearly visible, not behind glass and available for a conversation. To this day only Metro Station, the newest jail to date, has a different bulletproof vibe.
At a sheriff’s station, they are not only behind bulletproof glass, but tinted glass. At LA County Jail, they are at a counter that is nose high for me. And Orange County jail has limo-tinted bulletproof glass at their counter. You have no idea if anyone is there, or if they can hear you — it’s awful and makes a point. The point is, the sheriffs are going to fuck with you. Any way they can.
By the beginning of the second year of my career, I had the sheriff’s number and I did my best to meet their demands. I would have two or three different xerox copies of my license and ID. Like clockwork, the sheriffs would reject my xerox copy of my license and say they couldn’t see the official California seal. So I continued to submit my xeroxes, and when they would reject my bond with some shit-eating grin on their faces, I would bust out an 8×10 full-color laser copy with the quality of an actor’s glossy headshot.
The police, they always met me with a smile, a joke, a friendly question. The sheriffs, always yelled at me, or ignored me for hours. “YOU CAN’T SIT THERE” has to be a threatening statement, shouted at you, not a request or even a blunt demand.
“Get the fuck outta here!”
Los Angeles and Orange County Jails run by Sheriffs are a hideous experience. For years, female inmates in Los Angeles County were housed at the Twin Towers Jail — along with the males, only in separate dorms. Then came a change and women had their own county jail in Lynwood in South Los Angeles. For a brief time, bail agents had to go to the Lynwood Station to post bonds for females. Lynwood had never dealt with bail agents. It was painfully obvious they had no idea what they were doing. They didn’t know where to direct me to go. So I had two choices: sit around and wait for some sheriff with an IQ of 45 to get it together, or find the bond desk or counter my own damn self. So off I went.
It seemed as if the building had circular hallways that went farther and farther down into the basement. The farther I walked the less there was! I finally stumbled onto a six-foot-high counter and a young male sheriff screamed at the top of his lungs, almost popping an eyeball, for me to “Get the fuck outta here!” And of course I was completely rattled and scurried off! In the long run, it turned out to be too much for the Lynwood sheriffs and now all bonds are posted at LA’s Twin Towers.
Meanwhile, LAPD cops were offering me “ride-alongs.” Something I never did. A “ride-along” is where you get to ride along with the cop and I guess see what he allegedly does all day. No thank you, not interested. I didn’t consider that a safe position to put myself in.
LAPD also gave me a tour of the old Parker City Jail, named after the notoriously corrupt Police Chief William H. Parker. The old station was chock-full of dirty little secrets. I also received the inside view of the new Metro Station which replaced the Parker Center. One cop used to love to throw penal codes at me and see if I knew the charge. I knew some, but not nearly as many codes as a cop knows. It was a fun game.
The experience of going to a Sheriff’s county jail facility is depressing. It is dirty, smells bad and feels demeaning. Why, you might ask? After all, I’m not in jail, I’m not in any trouble, so you’d think! But the sheriffs always treated me as if I was an inmate. I didn’t see them treat anyone differently except for attorneys.
Next thing that’s good knowledge for the bail agent is that no matter what time you arrive at a sheriff-run jail, it is SHIFT CHANGE. That is correct, morning noon and night it is shift change.
While you wait, you can enjoy the crazies yelling and howling at the moon. Men who have just been released who need something for some reason are the only ones lurking around the jail facility. There is a watchtower-type counter, meaning it’s round so the sheriffs have a 360=degree view. The counter level comes to my nose, and the windows are tinted so you can barely see if there’s any asshole working there, or if they can even bloody hear you.
Going to county jails in the middle of the night and the crack of dawn morning hours always gave me a feeling of extreme vulnerability. I watched my back as if in a do-or-die situation, because that’s what it truly is. There’s nothing but sheriffs and criminals running around, it’s the scariest place I know. My demeanor of “rattled” slowly but surely changed. One time while in line at Van Nuys Superior Court, a sheriff was screaming at us like we were inmates and I loudly and anonymously said from the line, “YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEAK TO US THAT WAY!” The sheriff got very quiet and did not scream at us anymore that morning. This shows you how the sheriff is trained: to scream, to yell, to intimidate. That may be appropriate for certain situations inside a jail facility, but who trains them to separate the inmate treatment from the citizen treatment? Is there any such training?
Angry spit-spewing sheriffs
Dealing with a rookie sheriff at Pico Rivera Sheriff Station in 2014 had me going back and forth from Hollywood all night long. After the first time they made me come back, I’m sure they simply timed it for the next call. On nights like these I sing Donna Summer to myself. You know the song. I’d remind myself this is why I pay for this car and its fancy heat seats and navigation. I’d enjoy my car and the ride all the way back to Pico Rivera and greet them with a smile.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been yelled at by a sheriff. It’s actually comical. I’d love to create a short film of nothing but edits of angry, spit-spewing sheriffs screaming at me. But then I must not ever forget that the sheriffs are an incredibly frightening gang that will show up at your house at some ungodly hour if you’re a single female. They did this to a female federal agent that conducted an investigation into the corruption, violence and deaths at LA’s Twin Towers.
While the sheriffs are harassing people and letting inmates die and beating people up, the police are allegedly having orgies and sex circle parties. That “rumor” has been around for quite some time. I have never been invited to one of their mansion orgy parties, but I have heard of them by attendees. Just as frightening if you ask me, but in a different way.
There is basic psychology behind every career. What is the motivation? Sheriffs smack of average folk who had been bullied, who are looking for an easy way out and even have a smidgen of clout in their small towns with minimal effort and only a six-month training course. The police training is approximately the same. Both police and sheriffs seem to live in communities of mostly other law enforcement employees like a cult. Six months is all it takes to legally carry a gun and the power to do a hell of a lot.
My career dealing with these two entities has been a project in and of itself and not to be taken lightly. These are humans with a gigantic sense of entitlement with a badge, weapon and a gang to back it all up. For your visual pleasure I’ve included a very rare shot of some angry sheriffs. I had my focus on the gorgeous painting at Riverside Superior Court, but you can see how pissed off the sheriff (on the right) is that I had the gall to snap a picture. And yes, they yelled at me.
Now my take on law enforcement isn’t to suggest that police are angels and sheriffs are devils; no that’s not the case. This sixteen-year career experience reveals some of the mindset behind the job, an insight to the training and its practicality in real life circumstances, and an inside look at their daily habits in the workplace. Tread accordingly.