Last year, I made sure everyone knew I was taking Admiralty Law. This year, I'm making sure everyone knows I'm writing a big paper about bounty hunters. It has been a tireless labor of love, and I'd like to fill you in on some of my learning.
Last week I learned that bounty hunters don't necessarily make great writers when i read "Bounty Hunter," a memoir/instruction manual/flashlight catalogue by Bob Burton, a major figure in the world of bounty hunting. Here's some of his best stuff:
First of all, Burton seemed to have a small problem with consistency, while giving props to his fellow bounty hunter, Ralph "Papa" Thorson, Burton writes:
Ralph’s view of the bail business is honed by over nine thousand arrests and close to forty years as a bounty hunter.
While, two pages later, Burton has this to say of Thorson's accomplishments:
With over 10,000 arrests to his credit, Thorson is considered the “supreme” bounty hunter.
Granted, "over 10,000" is also "over 9,000", but . . . you know.
A few pages later, Burton nobly describes the ideal modern bounty hunter:
The modern bounty hunter is ideally part attorney, part scientist, part psychologist, and part police officer. He is versed in languages of the ethnic groups in his area, strong and untiring, honest and sober. His appearance and demeanor are above reproach.
But this picture of Ralph Thorson is found on the facing page:
What was the definition of "above reproach" again? And, while we're at it, "appearance and demeanor"?
Still, Burton recognizes that a certain stigma is attached to his profession:
But don’t ever expect to be nominated head of the Chamber of Commerce of your city. The word “bounty hunter” is laden with colorful and dubious associations. Hell, even your mom will wonder.
Burton gives good advice about roughing up bounties:
The human head can only take so much pounding by metal or hard wooden objects. When you are arresting an unruly individual, you may feel the need to break something over his or her head. Don’t do it! Severe injury could result.
And he adds this:
If you must hit someone with other than your hand, hit him on the elbows, wrists, knees and collar bone. I guarantee these points are painful.
Flashlights are important to bounty hunting, otherwise Burton wouldn't have dedicated about 4 pages to discussing their potency:
The blast a 35,000 candlepower light beam can produce on your brain is overhelming.
Sure 35,000 candlepower is great, but you know what's better. . .
One manufacturer, Stream Light, produces a light up to 1,000,000 candlepower. It’ll knock your socks off.
Sounds great, on the next page Burton says this about another flashlight:
The 35,000 candlepower light will knock your socks off.
So, you know, 35,000 to 1,000,000, in general, that's where you'll find the sock-knocking-off candlepower.
Burton tries to keep things really serious, dignified, and above reproach throughout the book, like when giving his opinion of the American criminal justice system:
A morass of horsesh*t favors the criminal and places a burden on the victim.
I'll have that quote in my paper, there's no way around it.
As far as technique goes, on page34 you'll find out how to get someone else's info at the DMV (come in sweat pants and say you left your wallet at the gym), on pages 50-53 you'll learn how to trick college students (pretend you're going to give them a job or paint their apartment).
But the bounty hunter's life isn't always fun and games and trickery, sometimes the trick is on the bounty hunter (regarding a female bounty Burton had caught and had to drive across a statelines):
Unfortunately, we found out that she had a very unpleasant habit of throwing her excrement at us. . . I would have been tempted to belt a guy throwing excrement about my van; but delivering a woman to county jail with a fat lip and black eyes would be too touchy.
And while we're on the subject of transport, let's not forget this rule of thumb:
While we’re on the subject of transport, let me mention that your car should be used for transporting the fugitive to the police station and not as a weapon for battering nor as a vehicle for high speed chases. Both can get you into far more trouble than the reward of bringing the prisoner in would be worth.
Also, sometimes you have to lead your bounty around by a chain around their neck, but don't think that means you can get away with being disrespectful:
With the chain you can walk him as if he’s on a leash. And going back to my earlier words on the subject of respect. Should this situation, don’t make light of it by referring to walking a dog. Your prisoner may be under extreme stress, and the situation will be distasteful enough as it is.
Later, Burton lists different airlines and their policies for flying with fugitives, and all I've got to say about this list is that I wouldn't fly Eastern airlines even if I could.
In the very brief chapter on Bribes, Burton has this to say:
In your work, you will be offered bribes by men who are about to lose their freedom. Don’t even think of taking them. Your personal honor, your reputation, and the possibility of your breaking the law are at stake.
Finally, Burton finishes the book (which really isn't very long) by describing the perfect bounty hunter:
The bondsmen is not looking for a bruiser. He is looking for a three-hundred pound linebacker with the wit and wisdom of Plato, the temperament of Woody Allen, the nose of Pluto, and the mind of F. Lee Bailey. Impossible dream? Perhaps, but there are many who approach this business who think all you have to do is man-handle the fugitive into the back seat of a car and hustle him off to the slammer.
Also, don't forget that he's looking for someone who's appearance and demeanor are above reproach.
PS This is Bob Burton