Five things we can’t (and won’t) do as a professional investigator
Private investigators are often a key character in movies, TV and fiction novels. We all know them; from Sherlock Holmes, Charlie’s Angels, Matlock and Colombo, to modern day fictional legends like Mike Ermantraut (Breaking Bad) and Magnum PI. All of them seem to find themselves in sticky situations that, ultimately, they always all end up coming out of as the hero.
But not always in a lawful way!
Of course, real private detective work is a bit like real police work. Not exactly what you see on TV. Like television, police don’t tend to solve crimes in an hour episode or discover forensic evidence in a magic computer program. It’s a lot of hard work, footslogging and hours of analyzing; hardly great television. And like police shows, the life of a private investigator is equally as mundane. Hours upon hours watching someone for a few minutes video footage (or none), or days interviewing people to compile a report. This is the real life of a PI.
And like being able to analyse DNA in a few minutes, there are lots of things a private investigator just can’t do, contrary to the world of entertainment. Here are some of the more common misconceptions:
- We’ll take on any job if there’s money in it.
No, a professional investigator won’t just take on any job. What’s important is that the needs of a client is matched with the skills of an investigator. No one’s an expert in everything. And the motives of some are sometimes questionable.
- A private investigator can ‘bend the law’ if it means getting a result for the client.
Any investigator that promises to break the law to get you information is doing the wrong thing, not only legally but also ethically. The law is the basis of everything we stand for.
- We have access to ‘special’ police databases and the information police have (or we can speak to cops and get it).
See point two. Obtaining information illegally, either through a computer source or through a person in authority, is actually against the law (for the person giving the information and the investigator receiving it). That’s not to say a competent investigator doesn’t have access to many legal sources of information. There’s a skill in retrieving it though.
- PI’s can ‘entrap’ someone in order to get the evidence they need.
There’s a big difference between using a pretext (where an investigator pretends to be someone else) to actually entrapping a person. Again, privacy legislation and the law is paramount and must always be kept in the back of an investigator’s mind.
- Anyone can be a private investigator (or anyone can do surveillance on someone).
Private investigators in Queensland, and across Australia, must be licensed. The process for getting such a licence means that they also must be formally trained, and undergo government screening. Watching someone without being licensed will open a person up to a criminal offence of stalking.
That’s where we, the Professional Investigators College of Australasia come in. Our certificate III in Investigative Services is the foundation qualification for investigators.
- All private investigators are the same.
Non-police investigators work in a variety of fields from government investigations (in federal, state and local councils), to corporate environments (in banks, insurance, mining companies) and private organisations. Most companies have an investigative function. Many, of course, also work for private clients. No good getting a surveillance investigator to do a fraud investigation!
At the Professional Investigators College of Australasia, we provide investigators a pathway in the industry. We’ll mentor you, guide you and support you in whatever field of investigation you’re seeking to enter.