Enforce the law for bail bondsmen

A lawsuit accepted by a federal court judge last week highlights another incident in which failure by the Warren Law Department and Warren City Police to enforce laws governing bail bondsmen poses life-threatening dangers in the city.

Federal Court Judge Benita Y. Pearson said bail bondsman Dwayne Lacey, working for All-American Big Bob’s Bail Bonding, apparently did not notify Warren police prior to attempting to apprehend a fugitive in October 2009. Ohio law requires such notification so officers know how to treat the incident should the fugitive or a witness report a violent act.

Lacey was attempting to apprehend a woman on a bond he wrote because she failed to appear in court. On Oct. 21, 2009, Lacey went to the home of the co-signer of the bond to bring in the woman who, upon seeing Lacey, ran.

The bond’s co-signer chased and caught the woman on Belvedere Avenue S.E. Lacey drove to the spot and put the woman in handcuffs. A Belvedere Avenue S.E. resident called police.

Responding officers apprehended Lacey and placed him in handcuffs. He remained in handcuffs for 12 minutes before police confirmed he was a bail bondsman and that the woman was wanted. The tense situation could have easily escalated into a shooting.

Lacey filed the lawsuit in federal court claiming his civil rights were violated. Pearson said that looking at the case in the most favorable light for Lacey, there is merit to hold a trial in January.

But the judge also pointed out that Lacey may not have complied with Ohio law by failing to tell police of his intentions to apprehend the woman and the incident could have been avoided had he given the ”appropriate notification.”

No charges were ever filed against Lacey.

This is at least the third incident in which no charges were filed against a bail bondsman for failing to notify Warren police prior to apprehending a fugitive. There have also been reports of bondsmen impersonating U.S. marshals and other law enforcement personnel without being charged.

In two cases reported in the Tribune Chronicle, Warren’s law department decided against pressing charges.

Hopefully new Warren police Chief Eric Merkel takes a more serious stand against renegade bail bondsmen and any people who impersonate law enforcement officers, even if Law Director Greg Hicks’ office continues to allow what appears to be lawbreaking. And hopefully the Ohio Department of Insurance Fraud and Enforcement Division, which is reviewing these and other past problems with the bail bond industry in Trumbull County, takes action to restore confidence in the law enforcement and judicial systems here.