Sunday, February 21, 2016

#4 of 6 Things A PI Won't Tell You

#4 We don’t have any special powers

“Years of television may lead you to believe that Private Investigators drive Ferraris, have law enforcement powers and have access to secret government records, in addition, you may believe that you are required to talk to a Private Investigator.  While some investigators may drive Ferraris, the rest of it is not true.  In fact, in most cases, a Private Investigator does not have any more power than the average person."

I agree with Brian to a degree.  While his list of 6 Things A PI Won’t Tell You was published in 2012 the laws are constantly changing in both directions giving us rights and taking others’ away. Let me express that real PI’s follow the rules and laws.  Anything PI’s recover as a result of an investigation would otherwise be a waste of time if not legally acquired, besides there is too much at stake for a PI who makes his/her living doing what they love to do.  They can lose their license and face the consequences of their actions.  It’s true that a PI is really just a public citizen and do not have law enforcement powers.    The power that a PI does have is skill and experience.    A doctor thinks like a doctor, a lawyer thinks like a lawyer and a PI thinks like a PI.  Be careful not to underestimate someone who digs around for information for a living, seeks the truth and knows how to find it.
PI’s  have power in the sense that they have the skill set to do what might be necessary to solve a case and it certainly helps when they investigate someone who has nothing to hide.  People who have something to hide will not be so forthcoming.  For example, when Shawn Hornbeck went missing and I sat down with his parents in an appeal to help find their son, pro bono, they were eager to cooperate with me and answered every single question asked.  Once during a rescue {of a women who was being controlled by her husband and held hostage} the bad guy in this case lied about everything and {in his own mind} justified his behavior to take the blame away from himself. 
One kind of power Brian is talking about is the kind of power a police officer has with a badge, for example, a PI cannot make an arrest.  I personally would not want to have that right.  If I wanted that right I would have become a cop. And, PI’s are more comparable to a Detective where they investigate not arrest. We have the same rights as the public to make a citizen arrest where allowed.  In fact, although some PI’s have a badge it is unethical to use it under unnecessary circumstances.  If you saw a person wearing a badge you wouldn’t think “there’s a PI”, no, you would think “there’s a police officer”.  It can almost be considered a form of misrepresentation if a Private Investigator or Private Detective were to walk around wearing a badge.   In fact, most PI’s don’t wear their badge and might keep it in their back pocket.   When my firm bought badges back in the day we had to ID ourselves as a legitimate Detective Agency but I am confident these days you could buy one no matter who you are and believe me when I say that people do and they misuse them, misrepresent themselves, and impersonate.  That’s the Internet for you.  But, why does a PI have a badge if it’s of no use to them?  Some PI’s have a badge as a token of accomplishment.  PI’s go through a lot of training and most are highly educated with degrees in criminology and more.  Most states require PI’s to be licensed and are required to take continuing education classes yearly or every two years in order to maintain their license.  Even as a Research Analyst I have 48 CEU’s in the field of Investigation.  I have had my badge for many years and back in the day it came in handy when working on missing children cases.  It was a form of ID that people took more seriously than had I just stated "I'm a PI so give me all the information you have" and expect the family to believe me.  These days’ people are on guard more so whereas anybody could get a badge and lie about whom they are even the child’s abductor.  Remember the three girls who went missing in Ohio?  Their abductor, Arial Castro, was there to help advocate for the return of one of his abductees. If I am acting on a professional level it helps to have a form of professional ID.  If I needed to I would not only use my badge but my professional state ID card.  

Secret government records are not accessible to anyone without legal right.  If a PI has legal means of obtaining secret government record I guarantee that they are using them.   It takes years for a PI to establish resources and contacts in order to achieve a great amount of success and while the information they access must be legal and with permissible purpose there are different ways they can go about getting it.  One way is to call in a favor to a friend and more than often that friend is a colleague.  You know who to trust and who not to trust in other words a PI who has morals and boundaries will stay away from the dirty PI’s who act like big shots among their peers bragging about the illegal information they can get.  Most PI’s have the same record access and resources and anything beyond that may not be legal.   And, if they are using information in the court of law and it was obtained illegally I guarantee it will be of no use to the client.

Again, the skill and experience of a PI is what makes a good PI.  A seasoned PI who has a specialty will typically know exactly what needs to be done including the shortcuts in order to solve a case.  For example I have training in skip tracing.  Skip tracing is the process of locating a person.  Skip tracers can legally also trace telephone numbers, credit cards, and just about anything that has a paper trail.  A good PI will know the right questions to ask their client in order to establish the best shortcut that will get to the requested ending result.  The process of skip tracing involves as many steps as it takes, however knowing which direction to go and how the information can be used is the key to success.  It’s simply putting a puzzle together in the right order.  Some of the puzzles are small and some can be very big.  Some are more time consuming than others.  I also must add that I interrogate my perspective client before I accept a case.  I always have to know why they want the information and what they intend to do with it when they get it.  Their answers will dictate whether or not I accept the task and what resources I can use.   PI’s, Skip Tracers, Investigators, Financial Institutions and more must have permissible purpose in order to access records that they most likely had to jump through hoops to access in the first place.  These are the resources that are not available to the public and must be used in a responsible and ethical manner by those who use them. 
Now, about the Ferraris.  Successful PI’s can easily bring in a six figure annual salary.  On average, in 2012, the annual salary of a PI was right around $50,000.

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