Recognize the title? It was the common phrase used by Detective Sgt. Joe Friday, not “Just the facts” that is often erroneously attributed to the television series actor. Ok, enough trivia.
In an any investigation the primary responsibility of a private investigator is to gather facts. But what exactly is a fact. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “fact” as; (paraphrasing); the quality of being actual; something that has actual existence; an actual occurrence. Private investigators have the burden of proving something to be factual. So how do you do it?
Although it’s not fool-proof, one method is to verify the “information” from two different sources that are not related to each other, or at least directly related. For example;
Witness stated that the office door lock would not secure properly. Investigator observed the locking mechanism on the office door with a piece of tape over the lock throw preventing it from extending into the door jamb.
The witness said it did not work and the investigator observed that it did not work properly.
A simple model
Verifying a fact with a second source will ensure that the information is factual. Consider that a statement made is just a statement, a piece of information. Verifying the statement from a second source then establishes a fact.
This simple model is important when reviewing witness statements. Further, Witness # 2 could be replaced with observation of video footage, or a document.
Verifying information with a second source, when possible, will establish a "fact" from information. This will improve the accuracy of your final findings in the investigation. Focus on using this simple method for facts that are relevant to the case to ensure you are providing proven information.
Sometimes this can be tricky if you have only one witness. Look for information the witness provides that can be verified from another source. Here are a few examples:
Suspect was in a room at a specific time.
Suspect removed a specific item.
Ok, you get the idea of verifying information. As a private investigator, gathering facts is your primary responsibility in any investigation. Verify that you are providing facts relevant to the case versus providing information only. Failing to verify information to determine if it is factual can end in an incomplete, or worse, faulty investigation.
Being a Professional Private Investigator requires attention to a lot of detail. Here are some of the most frequent pitfalls that will damage your professional reputation as a private investigator:
1. Not returning emails or calls to clients promptly - You are a busy person, but failing to communicate with your clients in a prompt manner is a sure way to damage your professional reputation. Make sure that you respond promptly, even if if is to say you are very busy and will respond to them as soon as possible.
2. Dressing like a ......- Your appearance sets the stage in your client's mind about your professional attitude toward your private investigator duties. Meeting with a client for the first time? Suit & tie for men, business dress for women, everything neat and pressed. It's a business meeting, dress appropriately. Save the pullover polos and BDU pants for the barbeque. Oh yeah....take off the sunglasses! One investigator shared this tip, "Dress like it's a job interview because it is!!!"
3. Not paying attention to someone - I once met with a private investigator that constantly checked their phone. When asked something they responded with, "Uh, what did you say? Whether meeting with a client or talking with a witness, give them your undivided attention. Make eye contact, paraphrase what they say to you to show you understand and more importantly, that you are listening to them. Put the cellphone away!
4. Sloppy reports - How you write your investigative reports, attention to detail, proper spelling, and grammar create an impression. Make it a good impression! Remember, the report you write may be viewed by several other people. People that may be a future client. Proofread, proofread, proofread, and yes, proofread your report before sending to your client.
5. Failing to be on time or meet deadlines - Arrive early for appointments. Give yourself plenty of time to beat the traffic and find the meeting location. If you provide your client with a deadline, meet it. Sometimes problems happen. Let them know before the deadline that you may be late and let them know why.
Word of mouth advertising is the best!!! If you exceed your client's expectations you can bet on a positive review, callbacks, and future referrals. Your reputation as a professional private investigator is an investment. Protect it all times and don't make these mistakes.
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.