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Archive for July, 2012

Colorado Private Investigators July Update

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Even though there was no monthly meeting in July, the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado has been busy with other events, activities, and updates. For those who were anxiously awaiting for Colorado’s PI license to take effect, that date finally arrived on July 1st! I’ve already heard from several Colorado licensed private investigators who have received case work directly attributed to being licensed. One of the goals of bringing licensing to CO is to restore consumer confidence in the use of private investigators. It seems like that goal is already being realized. Of course, obtaining a license is no guarantee that a private investigator will receive more work. However, the way I see it, at a price of $320, all I need is half a day’s work to recoup my cost. With that in mind, I like my chances.

Currently, DORA shows there are 47 Colorado licensed PI’s. In speaking with several private investigators, the two main reasons why those who are otherwise qualified have not obtained licenses are cost and lack of time. For the cost portion, the fee is one factor that could not be controlled by the investigative community. DORA, being in charge of administering the program, set the fees. I know that with the economy, times have been tough for many of you. Please bear in mind though, that with just one case you can potentially recoup that cost. For those of you who have not been able to make the time to get your licenses, I’m glad to hear that you’re busy with work and personal activities, including enjoying the always-too-short summer season. However, make no mistake, your support and participation in Colorado’s licensing program is absolutely crucial to the program’s success! In fact, the participation of each and every investigator who is qualified for a Colorado PI license is needed to ensure a long-lived program and the potential for lower fees in future years.

The DORA PI License Program Manager, has agreed take time out of her schedule to be at the August 1st PPIAC meeting to provide information about the licensing program, as well as to answer any questions. Please pencil this date in your calendars and plan to attend if you are interested in learning more about what it means to be a licensed professional.

I was fortunate enough to be able to be a guest presenter at PPIAC’s training seminar on July 13. I always embrace any opportunity to gain more experience in giving presentations. I also learned a lot from the other presenters, and even learned a few new investigative tricks from some of the attendees. The fresh, creative techniques that new investigators bring to the profession never fails to amaze me.

The Conference committee has just released information for the upcoming conference to be held in Colorado Springs this coming October 2012! This year’s conference will showcase the amazing quality of professional investigators that call Colorado their home! Many of these names will already be familiar, some may not. If you’re thinking that you’ve already heard some of these presentations, think again! This panel of speakers will present information that will no doubt be valuable and worth your time and money. Please go to http://PPIAC.org/training/annual-conference for more information.

I have started a new column on the home page of the PPIAC website. The column is entitled President’s Recommendation, and to kick off the column, I chose to profile a book that I recently read. It is entitled Trials and Tribulations of a Real Life Private Eye by John Lajoie. I recommend any private investigator, both highly experienced as well as new to the profession read this book. This is not a how-to book on investigations. Rather, it is a book that provides a no-nonsense insight into the life and mindset of what it takes to be a professional private investigator and business owner. See if you can spot the PPIAC member whose work in a high profile case is mentioned in the book! Please visit http://PPIAC.org/info/presidents-recommendation for more information on the President’s Recommendation column.

The August PPIAC meeting is a little over a week away. Jeff Saviano of JDS Criminalistics in Colorado Springs will be providing a presentation in Forensic Photography. This is a can’t miss meeting that will provide valuable information to help you not only take better photographs but to also help you analyze photographs. Practically every investigator provides some type of photographic documentation to a client at least once in any given year, or otherwise has to analyze photographic documentation/evidence. I look forward to seeing you on August 1st at the PPIAC meeting in Englewood, CO! Please go to http://PPIAC.org for more information and to RSVP.

Integrity in Private Investigations

Monday, July 9th, 2012

In private investigations, integrity is commonly referenced. Practically all investigators espouse and profess to have “it”. It’s a part of many business slogans, models and mission statements. The word is often used, but less frequently practiced. Why is that? Colonel Slade, a character in the movie Scent of a Woman, stated it best: “because it’s just too d*mn hard”.

You either have it, or you don’t. Claiming to have it has seemingly become a business necessity, particularly in investigations. So what is “it”, and what makes “it” so difficult for some to practice? Most importantly, how does investigator integrity affect legal case work? There are many definitions, but essentially integrity requires one to act according to a moral code, a code which extends well beyond the practice of investigations to life itself. It encompasses values like honesty and ethics; and if you have “it” you don’t compromise. Therein lies the difficulty. If you don’t compromise, and adhere to a higher standard, sacrifice is required. The absolute truth can be painful, difficult, brutal and it is human nature to avoid. Integrity occasionally requires one to venture down that road, to open oneself up to criticism. To act with integrity is ultimately not a business decision, but rather a conscious one.

An investigator becomes the eyes and ears of the client. Results presented with integrity involve the facts, and only the facts of the case presented equally. The “good” are not overly highlighted, and the “bad” are not sugar-coated or omitted all together. You need the facts, clear and unbiased to make proper decisions on a case. Do you have absolute faith in your private investigator? Does he/she consistently accept responsibility for his/her actions?

An impressive resume, a slick presentation, a convincing sales pitch: none of it matters without integrity. To truly find a private investigator with integrity, look past this overused word. Instead, look your investigator in the eye and see the person. How do they conduct themselves in this world? That’s what really matters.

– Richard Q.

The Colorado PI Licensing Story

Friday, July 6th, 2012

The Colorado private investigator licensing effort, at least until the law was passed in 2011, was a 34 year effort. According to PI Museum Curator Ben Harroll, Colorado was one of one of the first states to be licensed. He references “Know The Law” The Detective Law Book and Practical Advisor published in 1898 by The Webster Detective Library, Review Publishing Company, Market and Delaware Streets, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Issue No. 3. May, 1899). The Colorado law was repealed in 1977.

The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado was founded in 1978 to provide guidelines for a licensing statute. Several licensing efforts were brought forth by PPIAC since the license law was repealed in 1977, only to meet with defeat each time. The last effort was in early 2007 with HB07-1083. It was, as all the other efforts before it, a bill calling for mandatory licensing. I was not a Board member of PPIAC at the time. I had recently joined the association a few months before, so I did not testify at the hearing for this bill. However, I did attend the hearing and, like many other investigators, experienced the bitter taste of defeat when HB07-1083 died in the first House committee with a vote of 4-7. However, there were two important lessons that came to light. The first was that PPIAC’s largest obstacle to passing a PI licensing law was itself, as there was no consensus within the association for licensing. The second was that PPIAC needed to do something different. As the saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”

During a visit to Colorado’s PPIAC Conference a few years ago, then NCISS President Francie Koehler was asked by a group of PPIAC members what needed to be done to finally restore licensing to Colorado. Her response to us was to develop relationships with state legislators. This was a critical piece of advice that would soon propel PPIAC into a year after year involvement in Colorado legislative matters.

PPIAC was thrown into the fire in 2010 when HB10-1012, commonly referred to as the Anti-Surveillance Bill, was introduced by insurance claimants and sponsored by Democratic legislators in a year where Democrats held the majority in both the House as well as the Senate. HB10-1012 was a bill that would have severely restricted the use of surveillance in worker’s compensation claims, and would in effect put many surveillance companies out of business in Colorado. This bill also would have likely set a bad precedence to restrict the use of surveillance for purposes other than worker’s compensation. The bill was being monitored by other states. Colorado investigators were backed into a corner. A strategy had to be quickly developed, and a game plan had to be executed. Failure was not an option.

PPIAC’s Board decided it needed a lobbyist, and an effective one at that. Where would PPIAC find an effective lobbyist? Fortunately, one of PPIAC’s past Presidents located a lobbying group owned by two former Colorado legislators. The group was brought into an association meeting for an interview. This lobbying group was subsequently hired and helped guide PPIAC in communicating with legislators, lobbying outside the House and Senate floors, and attending legislative town halls as constituents. In short, they showed PPIAC how to develop relationships with legislators.

With Democrats having control in both the House and the Senate, the Democratic sponsored bill progressed through the House along party line votes. In one of the Senate committees, PPIAC’s lobbyist identified a Democratic Senator as a potential swing vote and someone that PPIAC should talk to. This Senator, whose ex-husband had been a private investigator, was open and understood the concerns of the investigative profession. She subsequently voted opposite her party and was the lone Democrat who voted no, giving the Republicans the majority vote needed to kill the bill.

With relationships established with legislators from the anti-surveillance bill effort, PPIAC set out to introduce a PI licensing bill in 2011. PPIAC knew it needed to take advantage of the momentum provided by the anti-surveillance bill. Colorado investigators were also facing a growing urgency to restore licensing due to concerns of privacy, limiting access to records, and identity theft. PPIAC could not continue fighting bills such as the anti-surveillance bill without the credibility and vetting which comes from being a licensed state. Some Colorado legislators hinted a PI licensing bill could be in the works. Rather than be at the mercy of a legislator-introduced bill, PPIAC knew it needed to introduce a bill first.

The PPIAC Board first had to know was a consensus from its membership before it went forth with a licensing effort. PPIAC’s membership easily reached a majority consensus to move forward with licensing. A path was then carved out for the bill. Preparation began in the summer of 2010. A Licensing Committee was formed, headed by a past President of PPIAC. The committee’s duties were numerous: create a list of key points which could be used to draft a bill, raise funds for a lobbyist, and seek sponsorship from legislators.

In order to approach this licensing effort differently than other licensing efforts, PPIAC decided to seek bi-partisan sponsorship of the licensing bill. PPIAC’s Licensing Chair approached a Republican legislator who happened to be very well respected in the House of Representatives. When asked if he would be the prime House sponsor, he practically laughed. He stated he was anti-regulation and he could not support the key points presented to him by PPIAC. The key points at the time contained the mandatory wording. He suggested the bill be a voluntary license. With a voluntary license, the Republican legislator would agree to be the prime sponsor. At the suggestion of the Licensing Chair, PPIAC went forward with introducing a voluntary license bill. It was around this time that I became President of PPIAC. I realized PPIAC needed to utilize the “outside the box” approach of a voluntary license. In fact, many Colorado investigators were already voluntarily licensed, choosing to obtain their licenses from Kansas, Utah, Arizona, California, and other states.

With the voluntary wording placed in the bill, Republican law makers viewed the bill, introduced as HB11-1195, as much more palatable. The sponsor of HB1195 in the Senate was none other than the Democrat who had been the swing vote the previous year in the anti-surveillance bill.  PPIAC also added a Democrat co-sponsor in the House, for a total of 3 sponsors and the first ever bi-partisan sponsorship for a Colorado PI bill. PPIAC quickly saw the fruits of its labors, and of the long hours the Licensing Committee spent planning in 2010. The bill passed through the first House committee, which the prime sponsor chaired, with a vote of 11-0. Though the Democrats held the majority in the Senate, PPIAC nearly committed a grave error by not including a Republican Senate sponsor. PPIAC found out the Democratic sponsor’s district was a contentious one, and Republicans wanted to kill as many of her bills as they could. During one of the Senate committee hearings, the bill squeaked by with a one vote majority. One of the Democrats was wavering on voting against her party. I wondered if we would experience the “shoe on the other foot” swing that our opponents had experienced with the anti-surveillance bill. However, the Democratic Senator stood by her party. The bill went on to pass through 3 House committees, the House floor vote, 3 Senate committees, the Senate floor vote, and was sent back to the House for consideration of minor amendments adopted out of the Senate.

After all this hard work, Colorado’s governor simply needed to sign the bill to pass into law. PPIAC initially believed this would be a slam dunk as he was a Democrat, and he was establishing a reputation for vetoing very few bills which came to his desk. However, PPIAC’s lobbyist and the Senate sponsor received information indicating he was considering vetoing the bill. The lobbyist, the Senate sponsor, and PPIAC’s Licensing Chair met with the governor’s staff to discuss the bill. Finally, on the last day the governor could sign bill, in the last tense hours of the business day, the governor signed the bill, finally restoring licensing to Colorado after 34 years! The signing of the law was a team effort and demonstrated the strength in numbers as a result of reaching a consensus within the association.

With licensing passed into law in 2011, the PPIAC Licensing Chair introduced a bill in 2012 to bring the Colorado DPPA in line with the Federal DPPA. That bill quickly made its way through the legislature and was passed into law. PPIAC is currently working with the Department of Regulatory Agencies to implement the licensing rules and other details of the program, which is scheduled to begin July 1, 2012.

Through this process, I’ve taken away several important lessons. The first is that sometimes life presents you with challenges that at the time may seem extremely difficult and even insurmountable. I admit I wondered if the Licensing Committee had the time and planning necessary to introduce a licensing bill in time for the 2011 legislative session. However, how was I to know if PPIAC could succeed if it did not try? I also learned that sometimes the answers to life’s problems are right in front of you. It was, after all, the Colorado investigators who were voluntarily licensed in other states gave PPIAC the indication that a voluntary license could be successful in Colorado. I also came to understand why PPIAC’s lobbyist said it’s easier to kill a bill than it is to pass a bill. He also mentioned once you establish relationships with legislators, you have to maintain those relationships and hence the momentum. PPIAC’s legislative efforts provided me the opportunity to take away reminders to some of life’s valuable lessons. As investigators and as human beings, whether we consciously realize it or not, we are lifelong learners. These experiences showed that our association and profession is comprised of individuals that are willing to work hard to make a difference in the future of our profession and our businesses.

Private Investigator Training in Denver Area

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Denver, CO – For Immediate Release

The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado will be continuing its training series on Friday, July 13th. PPIAC presents the 2012 Summer Training seminar: “So You Want to Be an Investigator…”

Speakers:  Eugene Ferraro, Tan Smyth and Andrea Orozco

High demand from new PPIAC investigators, as well as those interested in the field of private investigation prompted the PPIAC to create this program.  Topics in this one-day seminar include:  Fundamentals of Starting your Own Business; Business Development and Client Development; Selecting your Specialty; Report Writing and Invoicing; Tools and Resources; Subcontracting and much, much more!  Sign up now – space is limited.   Email training@ppiac.org for a sign-up sheet.

Sign-up sheets must be returned to training@ppiac.org no later than July 6th, 2012.

PPIAC Members: $80.00                  Non-PPIAC Members: $95.00

Training is at the Doubletree Hotel, 7801 East Orchard Road, Greenwood Village, CO.  Training begins at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.  Source materials and snacks are included; lunch is on your own.  There will be a survey passed out with the materials.  Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Payments may be made through Paypal at the PPIAC.org site, or may be mailed to: John Castellano, Treasurer PPIAC, P.O. Box 3005, Littleton, CO 80161; or you may simply bring your payments at the beginning of the seminar.  Questions may be directed to Tan Smyth, VP of Training, PPIAC at training@ppiac.org.  Payments must be received no later than the day of the seminar.

To pay online, please visit: http://ppiac.org/training/colorado-private-investigator-training