Professional Appearance – Would you trust you?

By Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA

It’s Wednesday morning in Indianapolis.  I’m scheduled to teach an hour of continuing education today to a group of property and casualty agents on the issue of bail bonds. In preparation, I got up early showered and dressed in a pair of dark gray slacks, light pink shirt, dark pink tie with a light gray sport coat with light pink strips.   What can I say; I’m not afraid of pink.

At every bail association meeting I’ve attended through the years, the issue of professional dress is almost always mentioned.  When it comes to professional attire, the bail industry gets very low marks and it most likely has to do with the hours a bail agent keeps, all 24 of them.

One never knows when the bail line is going to ring and one has to head down to the jail to meet a client or post a bond.  Most people will not take the time to put on a nicer set of clothes before heading out.  More often than not, they go with what they have on, jeans, sweatshirt, warm-up suit, etc.  With this 24/7 lifestyle it’s easy to get away from the habit of dressing professionally.

We fifty-something’s still remember when you were expected to be at work on time, stay late if you had to and work the occasional weekend day.  We also remember the requirement or rather expectation, of having to wear a tie and jacket or a nice outfit for the ladies.  That was normal then, not so much today.

I’m one of the hold outs.  I’ve found through the years, I’m treated differently when I’m professionally dressed as opposed to when I’m outfitted in jeans and a golf shirt. People give you ten points for just wearing a tie.

I still cringe when I see members of our own staff setting out to visit agents sans a tie and jacket.  In their minds, they’re dressing equal to what the client would likely be wearing.  They may be right, but it doesn’t feel right to me.

Right or wrong this is the way society is going.  Even at the weekly lunch meeting of my men’s group, of fifty people present I may be one of three wearing a coat and tie. The majority of business travelers I see are in casual attire.

Whether you wear a coat and tie or not first impressions are very important, particularly in the case of transacting bail bonds.  The general public has a preconceived notion of the typical bail agent.  Their expectation of professionalism and appearance is low.

Clients are typically, family, friends or co-workers looking to post bond for someone. They want very much to trust the person with which they are giving money and signing a number of legal documents.   For good reason, it is important to present a professional appearance and convey trust and confidence.  Surprise them.

Give this some thought the next time you’re scheduled to meet with a client.  Think about how your client is receiving you and what your appearance conveys.  Will it be trust and confidence or hesitation and skepticism?  Would you do business with you based on your appearance?  Up your game and dress professionally, it matters.

Now, I have to give a lecture on bail bonds today fully aware it is possible to look good and still suck.  Here’s to not sucking.


San Diego Site of PBUS Comeback

San Diego, CA – The PBUS Mid-Year Meeting held at the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego July 8-11 was by far the best PBUS summer meeting I’ve attended in more than a decade.  The success of this meeting is a testament to the new administration and critical administrative changes made in the waning months of the last administration.

The coastal venue in Southern California was like an oasis.  The hotel, the setting next to the pier and the weather were all very welcoming.  The scheduled was not too crowded and the information offered was fresh. Both the cocktail party and dinner were first rate and while I did not attend, I understand the For Women’s Only Lunch was successful and everyone had a good time at Sea World on the final day of the conference.

I’m not alone in my opinion.  Several attendees remarked about how nice the event was this summer.  PBUS has been operating for just over thirty years so it was time for a house cleaning. Gone are the former executive director and staff.  Gone is the Washington D. C. office space.  Gone is the tremendous cost associated with both. Changes made at the end of Past President Linda Braswell’s administration have provided a friendly environment for new Executive Director Melanie Ledgerwood and current PBUS President Scott Hall who, as a member of the Board of Directors, enthusiastically argued the changes that have occurred.

Scott Hall reported at the Board of Directors meeting that PBUS, as a result of a reduction in overhead, was in good financial health.  The 2013 winter conference is set for a return to the Mirage Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.  I’m looking forward to seeing what PBUS has in store for us next February.  As for this meeting I give them two thumbs up.


Meeting Notes
Council of Presidents Meeting – Dave Hyatt from Colorado reminded everyone transfer bonds were no longer permitted in the Rocky Mountain State.  If you’re an out of state agent whose client has been arrested Colorado you will now need to refer your client to a Colorado bail agent.

Ralph Williams of Alabama reported a suit has been filed regarding the recently imposed $35 per bond fee.  The basis of the suit is the Alabama State Legislature is prohibited from passing revenue generating legislation within a certain period prior to the end of the legislative session.  Mr. Williams also clarified the surety bail agents must absorb the cost of the $35 fee while professionally licensed bondsmen can pass the fee onto their clients.



Mike Whitlock: Has it been 30 years?

On the drive into work today it occurred to me last month marked my thirtieth year in bail. The ink was barely dry on my diploma from Plano Senior High School in December 1981 when I took a job as a runner for Guaranty Bail Bonds in downtown Dallas. While I’m a second generation bondsman, my first job was not working for my father, Jack Whitlock (though I would eventually work for him for more than 20 years), but my older brother who actually got me a job as a runner. My brother got out of the business and while I didn’t know it at the time, bail became my career choice.

The life of a bond runner is far from glamorous. It’s a hard job, you’re effectively a gofer.   Go post this bond, go wait for the defendant to be released, take an application, call the client with his court date, etc. I went through more than one set of tires on my ’78 Nova, running bonds to jails all over Dallas County. Only bondsmen and law enforcement can recognize the particular fragrance defendants can acquire after a night in jail. Aside from that, most clients were glad to see me, as I was their savior of the moment. Most were good people going through a bad experience.

I also recall working the graveyard shift, when downtown Dallas was asleep and eerily quiet. Parking was not a problem that time of night and if I paced myself, I could make every green light on Commerce Street as I returned from posting a bond at the county jail. Still the nights were endless and unforgiving.

I worked for three bonding companies before going to work for Texas Fire & Casualty as a bottom rung claims processor. It was at TF&C, and a year later at Allied Fidelity, I first started working with the likes of Don Floyd (GA), Marvin Byron (CA), Bud Goldberg (MN), Carl Guillory (LA) and Linda Braswell (FL), the current president of PBUS. Good people all.

I learned a tremendous amount during my first five years in bail which helped me through the subsequent twenty-five and today. It’s when I began working with bail agents in nearly every state in the country I really began seeing the big picture of what commercial bail means to the criminal justice system and the forces who work to eliminate our profession. The few years I spent in retail has helped me relate to the bail agents I’ve contracted through the years.

Bail has become my passion.  Working in this profession has allowed me to provide for my family.   I’ve been truly blessed to work with my father for more than twenty years and have partners like Bill Carmichael and P.J. Longstreth and work with a great staff of experienced good people. The bail agents I work with everyday are hard working decent people trying to make a difference and my wife Marcia and our kids who have been tolerant of my odd work hours and extended travel schedule. It’s been a good ride so far and I’m looking forward to many more years working in this noble profession. Happy New Year!

via Commercial Bail | American Surety Company – The Bail Insurance Company.

Cash Deposit Bail a Classic Air Sandwich

When I think about 10% deposit bail and I think about it often, I keep thinking how it’s a Rubik’s cube of logic that proponents use to justify its use to guarantee a criminal defendant’s appearance in court. Deposit bail (posting 10% of the bond in cash with the court with the remaining 90% unsecured) is really nothing more than an air sandwich being fed to the general public. A vacuous guarantee provided by the criminal offender himself, providing zero sustenance to victims and taxpaying citizens or the criminal justice system. Penn State assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky recently released on a 100% unsecured bond, not even a partial cash deposit; that was an air sandwich with cheese.


In our effort to prove the Air Sandwich Theory we have initiated an effort to gather information from counties throughout Indiana who have, for years, used deposit bail to the exclusion of all other forms of release, including and in particular, commercial bail bonds. Our request for listings of failure to appear warrants and an accounting of cash bail deposits have met with some resistance.


Some counties have been cooperative in responding to our Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA) while St. Joseph County (South Bend), a county who has exclusively used deposit bail for decades has been less than forthcoming with details. One would think a county utilizing one system of bail exclusively for forty years would have perfected their process over time. Apparently, that is not the case.


According to South Bend has a crime index of 4 making the home of Notre Dame University safer than just 4% of the cities in the US. Residents of South Bend have a 1 in 131 chance of being a victim of a violent crime and 1 in 15 chance of being a victim of a property crime. According to the 2004 FBI Crime Report, the overall crime index in South Bend at that time was worse than the national average in every category. It would appear little progress has been made in the years since.


I recently wrote to and spoke with the St. Joseph County Clerk. I was told they had no way of knowing, at any given time, how much money was being held in trust for cash bail deposits and her office could not provide and did not have a detailed listing of criminal defendants who currently had bail money on deposit. She went on to tell me they were using antiquated systems and the only way to know if a defendant had cash bail on deposit was to do a manual search using their public access computer.


One has to ask the question, if you don’t know how much money is supposed to be in the cash bail trust account how do you know if the account balance is accurate? Who is responsible for reconciling this account? Who is responsible for these funds?


The FOIA request I sent to the St. Joseph County Warrants & Fugitive Division requesting a list of outstanding warrants, was met with the same obfuscation. While other counties in Indiana provide a list of their outstanding warrants on line, St. Joseph County claims no such list exists, at least not one they want to provide their employers,  the general public.


Undeterred, I was able to find a lengthy list of outstanding warrants for St. Joseph County at Not surprisingly there were a number of open warrants for failure to appear for court on charges ranging from battery, robbery and auto theft to weapons possession, forgery and habitual traffic offenses. Offenders, who at the discretion of the St. Joseph County judges or its sheriff were released from jail and back into society on a10% cash deposit, 90% free bond.


The residents of South Bend continue to be victimized by elected officials, appointed judges and law enforcement executives who have intentionally opted to use a minimum standard for guaranteeing a criminal defendant’s appearance in court. A fully secured bail bond remains the most effective option for ensuring a criminal defendant appears for court and justice and public safety is served, it’s no air sandwich.

via Cash Deposit Bail a Classic Air Sandwich – Where in the World is Mike Whitlock? | American Surety Company – The Bail Insurance Company.