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Posts Tagged ‘investigations’

Colorado Private Investigators Seek Licensing

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I am a past President of the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado. The reason why Colorado private investigators are seeking to establish a licensing requirement is simple: consumer protection. For the past 11 years that I have been a private investigator, including the beginning of my career, I have wondered why other professions in Colorado required licensing, yet Colorado private investigators had no professional oversight, no guidelines, no standards, no training or schooling requirements, no attestation to the knowledge of the laws that pertain to private investigators, no standardization, and simply nothing prohibiting anyone from becoming a private investigator. Over the course of my career, I have encountered a private investigator who was a drug addict while employed as PI. I’ve known of another who kept an ice chest full of beer in his car which he drank while out on surveillance stakeouts. Yet another kept marijuana in the car that she used for surveillance. Some PI’s have felony convictions, others misdemeanors. Some have had restraining/protection orders placed against them as a result of their investigations. One private investigator was shot at as a result of conducting surveillance on private property. At least two Colorado investigators admitted to improperly, and without consent of the owners, placing GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of the subjects of their investigations.

Colorado private investigators are entrusted and often tasked with having social security numbers, dates of birth, height, weight, daily habits, work and personal schedules, vehicle descriptions and identifying information, etc. of individuals they are investigating. I highly doubt there is another licensed profession which deals with this many types of sensitive information.

Colorado private investigators are hired by attorneys who are required to be licensed. PI’s are often called on to testify to the accuracy and legality of their findings. Attorneys and other clients depend on investigators to not just find information, but to have that information admitted into court as evidence.

Private investigators are hired to perform criminal defense / death penalty investigations, death causation investigations, child custody and welfare investigations, family law investigations, insurance fraud investigations, financial investigations, accident reconstructions, and political investigations to include opposition research. We are hired to locate lost relatives, friends, military and war veterans, beneficiaries, witnesses, etc.

Private investigators sometimes interview witnesses of murders and injuries. PI’s interview rape and assault victims. In certain circumstances PI’s might even interview children. Private investigators are routinely called on when clients are at the lowest points of their lives.

Private investigators often conduct surveillance, both stationary as well as mobile. Stationary surveillance is what
the public might refer to as stakeouts. The stakeouts are very similar, and in many cases identical to the stakeouts that police officers conduct. When a suspicious vehicle is called in to the police, the responding officer has no way of knowing if the individual is a legitimate PI without licensing. Private investigators cannot impersonate police officers. However that has not prevented Colorado investigators from flashing badges at subjects or the general public. There is nothing preventing law enforcement, district attorney investigators, and other public officials / employees from moonlighting as PI’s and thus involving themselves in conflict of interest cases. Colorado PI’s have faced discipline for such involvement.

Why should Colorado private investigators be licensed? It is in the best interest of the public that consumer protection be in place. The consumer protection of the public far outweighs the self interests of opposing PI’s. Please support SB-259. The bill is scheduled to be heard in Denver at the Capitol beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Old Supreme Court Chambers. Here is a link to the bill:

http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2013a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont3/2FB500E51653EA4987257B2600715430?open&file=259_01.pdf

Client Interviews and PI Equipment

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

The client will most likely feel like they are being interviewed by the private investigator or detective prior to taking on a case. Ethical and smart private investigators will make sure that the case request is genuine and there is a legal purpose for doing the investigation. The client should be prepared prior to contacting the PI by having a court order, a court case number, attorney contact information, and any other information pertinent to the case to demonstrate the legality and legitimacy of the case. The PI must safeguard against the results being misused. Investigative agencies will likely use a contract which will detail the type of case that is being requested, the uses for the investigation results, and a release of liability holding the private investigator harmless if the results are misused.

An important consideration in hiring a private investigator is to ask what equipment the investigator has pertaining to the specific type of case being requested. Investigators who specialize in electronic bug detection should have equipment on hand to discover wire taps and hidden cameras. Surveillance investigators and operatives who specialize in child custody, family law, employee misconduct, infidelity, court order violations, etc. should have video cameras, still shot cameras, and covert/body worn cameras on hand to conduct surveillance.

Private Investigator Insurance

Monday, March 14th, 2011

An important consideration that often reveals the full-time, professional and qualified PI agencies from the part-timers (and most likely less experienced) is to look at the insurance that the private investigator/agency carries. Particularly since Colorado does not license or otherwise provide guidelines for private investigators and their insurance coverages, the responsibility falls on the client to choose an insured investigative agency. Most insurance companies, law firms, and corporate clients require a $1,000,000 per occurrence liability insurance to be in place prior to using the investigator’s/agency’s services. A certificate of insurance should be requested to verify the policy information. The insurance protects the investigative agency as well as well as the client. Clients need to be aware that there have been instances of private investigators knowingly, or perhaps due to lack of training, cause harm to themselves or the subject(s) of their investigation. Because of the nature of private investigations, PIs are involved in legal matters and can be suseptible to facing legal action themselves. Private investigators, detectives, and surveillance operatives are typically involved in a lot of travel, even during the worst of Colorado conditions, so the risk of accident can be high. Also, because of activities such as service of process, interviewing hostile witnesses, and otherwise involvement in cases that can create confrontations on the PI, insurance is critical. If the private investigator/agency objects to showing proof of insurance, they probably don’t carry it. Ask if the PI or investigative agency has ever had to make a claim on their insurance, and if so, get the details.

Colorado Private Investigators Need Background Checks Too!

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The first thing to look for in a private investigator and/or investigative agency is their background and qualifications. Of course if the average person could conduct a thorough background, there would be no need for hiring private investigators to conduct background checks. A character investigation on the individual as well as verification of the investigator’s qualifications and experience should also be considered. With no PI licensing requirements in Colorado, there is only one known investigative organization in Colorado which conducts background checks/character investigations on its members: the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado or PPIAC for short. This organization verifies the hours of experience of its members and appoints membership levels based on the hours of experience. Many investigators and private detectives in Colorado obtain a PI license in other states as a way to display credibility and credentials above their peers in the state. A private investigator who wishes to obtain a license in another state must pass a background check as well as display a minimun

                As with other professions, the Better Business Bureau should be checked to determine if there are any consumer complaints filed against an investigative agency.

                Make sure to ask the investigator how many years of experience he or she has, particularly in the specific type of case that he or she will be working. A good question to ask is how many cases in a specific field that investigator has worked in the past year. Another question to ask is whether there are any other investigators other than the one being interviewed that will be working on the case. A surveillance investigator will probably not be the best bet in conducting a computer forensics investigation, and vice versa. College education, though not necessary, can give an indication as to the investigator’s research abilities, report writing abilities and overall intelligence.