I-Team: Nevada Bounty Hunter School - 8 News NOW

Mark Sayre, Investigative Reporter

I-Team: Nevada Bounty Hunter School

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Instructor Doug Noad is a 12-year veteran of the bail industry. He tells students what they are learning today is deadly serious. Instructor Doug Noad is a 12-year veteran of the bail industry. He tells students what they are learning today is deadly serious.

Bounty hunters -- Nevada law gives them wide latitude to enter private property -- even your home -- while doing their jobs. Over the past several months the Eyewitness News I-Team has been uncovering problems with the local bounty hunting industry. 

Blog Your Thoughts on Bounty Hunters.

Art Dias was shot with a 'beanbag gun' as a bounty hunter was making an arrest. Dias is a maintenance man at a local night club. And Frank Smyth is a retired member of local law enforcement. Smyth was armed with two handguns -- and says he almost shot the bounty hunters who came to his door late at night dressed in all black.

So what does it take to become a bounty hunter -- technically called a Bail Enforcement Agent -- in Nevada?  You have to have a clean record and pass a drug test. You also have to pass a two-week class which is required by the state. 

"I want to welcome everybody to the class," instructor Doug Noad tells the group of eight prospective bounty hunters. It may look like just another day in just another classroom at the Community College of Southern Nevada campus in Henderson. But these students are not learning reading, writing, nor arithmetic.

They are learning to be bounty hunters -- at least that's what most people will call them.   "There are still a lot of people out here in the field today that like to be called bounty hunters. It's an image... it's on TV," Noad tells his class.

Among the most popular shows is "Dog the Bounty Hunter." Shows like this are glamorizing the industry and students like Penelope Winkler say she is inspired by Duane "Dog" Chapman. "To see him and his family go out and do these things together and that's what I want to do for me and my family," Winkler said.   

But student Joel Carlson takes the opposite view. "I know he means well but sometimes it just does not seem that it is bringing a good light to the business," Carlson said.

Instructor Doug Noad is a 12-year veteran of the bail industry. He tells students what they are learning today is deadly serious. "Because if you kick a door in to get somebody and they are not in that house -- you have committed a felony. It is called home invasion," Noad said. 

Up until 1997, bounty hunters did not have to have any formal training at all to work in Nevada. That's when a new state law (NRS 697.177) mandated this class to try to clean up the industry. During 80-hours of required instruction, students learn about constitutional law, bail law, civil liability, report writing, the care and custody of prisoners, and the principles of investigation.  

The class also teaches real world tactics like the use of force. Instructor Nick Walling is a 20-year veteran of the Henderson Police Department. On this day he is teaching handcuff techniques. The students then get their chance to show what they have learned. 

Back in the classroom, Noad tries to impress upon his students to always be professional. Talking about a hypothetical call, Noad told the class, "Is your son at home? OK, hang up the phone, then take 18 people out there all 'tac'd out' to arrest somebody. It's not done. It's stupid."

The industry itself says it supported the requirement for this class to try to help increase professionalism and cut down on problems. Practicing bounty hunters say they, too, want to weed out the so-called 'bad apples' so they don't tarnish the reputation of the entire industry.

According to a survey conducted by the American Bail Coalition, Nevada is one of 11 states that require a licence to practice as a bounty hunter. Seven states, however, outlaw bounty hunters all together.

Email your comments to Investigative Reporter Mark Sayre.
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