Conducting a Private Investigation
An investigation conducted by a neutral party is considered superior to research carried out by a potentially biased party. You may be capable of performing your own investigation but do you have the time to manage it thoroughly? As with any do-it-yourself project, your decision is based on the importance of the outcome. A thoughtful evaluation of the pros and cons is absolutely necessary before you begin.
What is the Purpose of Your Investigation?Are you hoping to determine whether you should submit your CV to an unfamiliar company? Are you concerned your neighbours are operating a clandestine drug lab in their garage? Is petty cash disappearing from the office? Did you find a strange telephone number written in your spouse’s cheque register?
At the outset, you can’t predict what your research will ultimately reveal. Ask yourself whether your involvement in the investigation will affect the credibility of any discovery. Would it be beneficial if someone neutral, with nothing to gain or lose as a consequence, did the legwork?
If you’re doing research on a company for which you might want to work, will you offend any of the firm’s staff if you make telephone enquiries? Could another person make the calls discreetly on your behalf? Can all of your questions be answered with a bit of research at the library?
Will those pesky neighbours of yours retaliate, if you spot contraband on their property and threaten to report their illegal activities to police? Do you know enough about the illegal enterprise to recognise a dangerous situation when you encounter it? Is a surveillance camera mounted on the neighbours’ garage and directed at your yard? Can you simply tip the police and then follow their instructions to safely gather information of value to an official investigation?
Are you the next employee in line for promotion should the star of the office turn out to be a pilferer? Will everyone’s suspicions be redirected at you, if you single-handedly produce evidence of a colleague’s wrongdoing? Often an accuser becomes the target of investigation as a diversionary tactic.
The telephone number in your spouse’s possession may easily be traced to a salon in a nearby community. At that point, do you feel yourself becoming irrational? Are you realistically capable of conducting surveillance on the person you love? Would it be helpful to discuss your suspicions with someone who can remain emotionally uninvolved?
Don't Jump to ConclusionsApplying caution and reason in a stressful situation isn’t easy. Righteous indignation can motivate many a fine person to act hastily or jump to conclusions. It hardly matters that your intentions were honourable, if your results are flawed and your accusations unwarranted. And you can’t rule out the possibility that justified allegations might be utterly disregarded.
Distancing yourself from an investigation can sometimes be a prudent and effective thing to do. Results can be more favourable when the process of gathering facts is demonstrably impartial.
In legal matters, the evidence you compile will be of little or no value if it’s not admissible in court. Is your experience sufficient to ensure compliance with the law? Lawyers, who serve as advocates for their clients, employ private investigators when they need to be able to show that information was gathered in a valid, even-handed manner. Such evidence is easier to introduce and more persuasive in court.
Address the issue of fairness in advance, if you hope to avoid scepticism regarding your stake in the affair. You may reach a point in the process at which the best course of action is to turn the investigation over to someone else. Not all matters requiring investigation are of grave importance. When they are of great consequence, the essential questions will be:
- Were you able to remain objective?
- Does anyone believe you were?