Private investigators receive different jobs that require different approaches. This is one of the responsibilities of a private investigator, to look at a situation and look for the most efficient way to get the job done. In a rapidly evolving industry, this becomes twofold as private investigators must also look into new techniques and tools that are available. These tools will affect how different jobs can be completed. Knowing this, it’s always helpful to hear from fellow private investigators to learn more about different techniques to help keep up with the growth of the industry. Here are a few of the best techniques shared by private investigators:
Stakeout surveillance – learning when it is time to perform a semi-stakeout or full stakeout is important to making the most of your allotted time on a particular job. This is something that comes with practice but it is always important to analyze each situation and chose times that are the most efficient. Simple night time stakeouts are outdated.
High-end recording equipment – technology is always in a state of rapid evolution as companies compete to attract customers to the next best experience they can offer. Knowing this, it is always important to keep tech up-to-date and not to skimp out on equipment. Smartphones and DSLR cameras are changing the game, and it can mean the difference between success or failure to invest in new equipment.
Disguise – the shades and baseball cap technique is a thing of the past. Private investigators need to know how to blend into a crowd without making themselves the center of attention.
Lead communication – building trust with persons of interest can make it that much easier to get important information.
Best Practices for Private Investigators
Freelance private investigators rely on having a strong reputation to maintain a steady flow of clients. Without it, clients will not feel comfortable sharing personal information with someone who is essentially a complete stranger to them. Some of you may be wondering how a private investigator builds this reputation, and what steps do they take to gain confidence from their clients? Each private investigator will have their tricks of the trade that differ from their competitors, however, there are a few general guidelines you can follow to strengthen your reputation and skills.
Top Skills for Private Investigators
- Degree and/or experience. Although this is not required in every state, having some educational or field experience is a great way to instill confidence in the clients of a start up, freelance private investigator. Field experience can include work as a police officer or as part of an investigative firm.
- Take notes. When speaking with a client take notes of important information. Not only will this save you the trouble of trying to remember the information later, but if you are meeting a client in person they will take note of your diligence.
- Practice. Like every profession, practice improves your performance as a private investigator. Taking some time to improve your researching techniques or surveillance techniques will shorten the time it takes to complete tasks and improve your own confidence in completing them.
- Professionalism. This should go without saying, but the emphasis is important. Maintaining a polite attitude and understanding that each job is unique, will make interacting with clients and other people you encounter during an investigation much easier. Clients that enjoyed working with you will recommend you to their friends, thus strengthening your reputation.
The Ethics of Private Investigation
Generally speaking, people understand the difference between right and wrong without being taught. A private investigator is no different and is obligated to follow certain rules. The difference between a PI and the general population, however, is that breaking ethical laws is so serious that it can actually warrant prosecution, so being taught the rules is critical.
Ethic Practices for Private Investigators
Although the stereotypical image of a private investigator is busting illegal operations or solving a mystery, laws and ethical practices are used to stop any behavior that compromises fairness to both citizens and criminals.
There is also a common stereotype that private investigators unethically obtain evidence. It’s essential that PI’s comprehend laws that are founded on ethics. You don’t want to damage the merits of a case due to unethical actions based on the ignorance of what’s right and wrong.
Ethics Questions for Private Investigators
As a private investigator, you should ask yourself several questions:
Would this action be considered legal?
Will I break any rules, regulations or policies?
Am I acting with objectivity?
Can I speak about the scenario and still feel as if the decisions and actions that took place were in the interest of fairness and justice?
Ethics are the basic instinct of what’s right and wrong, and should be carefully considered through every aspect of private investigation. Not all situations are black and white;however, and that’s where classroom learning becomes crucial.
Private Investigators: Hollywood vs. Reality
Movies and television shows often portray private investigators incorrectly, especially when compared to their real life counterparts. Famous private investigators that shape stereotypes include Humphrey Bogart, with his fedora and trench coat attire, and Sherlock Holmes, touting his pipe and detective’s magnifying glass. Private investigators are rarely portrayed in a more realistic light, and that image has distorted the public’s perception of who private investigators are and what type of work they actually perform.
For a private investigator, this is bad for their business. Reputation is a key part of maintaining a respectable living in the field of private investigation. To help remedy this perception of cartoony stereotypes, here are some important pieces of information about the real work that private investigators perfom:
- Private investigators serve a wide variety of clients. Depending on each private investigator’s specialization, they will often serve a diverse clientele. Some private investigators primarily work for companies to investigate insurance claims, or to run background checks on employees. Others will work closely with police to help bring evidence to light that can make or break important cases.
- Reputation is everything! Unless they are working for a well-established firm, private investigators have nothing but their reputation, and good word-of-mouth from their clients to help bring in more work.
- Professionalism is important to the profession. Private investigators are trusted with sensitive, and otherwise private, information to complete certain jobs. This requires a deep level of trust from their clients, and they certainly do nothing less than handle this information with care and discretion.
- Private investigators are not above the law. There are no illegal practices performed by professional private investigators. They are well aware that any information that is obtained illegally can seriously tarnish their reputation, and end their careers as investigators.
It’s important to remember that Hollywood loves to offer exaggerated representations of certain professions to draw more viewers. This should in no way affect how people treat private investigators in real life. Their livelihood relies on trust that is easily shattered by these fantasies. To learn more private investigation careers, check out the National Investigative Training Academy online, or call us today at 1-800-730-NITA.
Our enrollment counselors are here to answer any questions you might have about our state- and board-approved status, pre-licensing training, or professional development programs.