When you ask the average citizen what they think a private investigator does you will often hear references to Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, Castle and the new Sherlock Holmes.  While all of those make for entertaining television shows the reality of what happens can be much darker.  Private investigators just like any profession has good and bad people.  There are investigators who go the extra mile to reunite a lost child with their family and investigators that harass and assault innocent citizens.  How can you tell the difference?

Spoof Investigator

Caveat Emptor

For those of you that have never heard this phrase it is Latin for “Let the buyer beware.”  I am going to share a couple of quick examples of bad PI’s.  First a person claiming to be a private investigator attempts to affect service process on an individual.  During the attempt and subsequent attempts the so called investigator harassed, threatened and assaulted family members of the person.  In another incident another fly by night investigator charged a client more that $3000 for an investigation and then never provided any work product.  These are just a couple of examples of how fraudulent private investigators have taken advantage of good people.  They will continue take advantage of innocent people because there is no mechanism for relief.

 

What can be done?

Unlike most states Colorado does not require licensing for its private investigators.  Anyone and I mean anyone can come to Colorado and claim to be a private investigator.  This means, registered sex offenders, felons, and people of questionable moral character can call themselves private investigators.  People that have little or no education or training can call themselves private investigators.  There are no avenues of consumer protection anywhere that have any teeth except for those that have chosen to voluntarily license.  During this year’s legislative session I heard opposition against licensing say that, “We police our  own.”  The simple fact of the matter is that there is no self policing mechanism for the industry.  It is imperative that we as professional private investigators, concerned citizens, and responsible legislators pass legislation to make licensing mandatory.  Licensing provides a baseline for professional investigators.  It creates a set of standards that every professional private investigator must meet prior to operating as a private investigator.  No license is going to protect the consumer completely, but it provides an avenue for them to seek relief.

 

Where to go from here?

This year’s legislative session is over, but it is not too late to voice your thoughts to our state legislature.  Spread the word and remember that there is strength in numbers.  Get involved, find organizations like the PPIAC Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado to stay informed on licensing.  Contact Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies, your state senators and representatives to urge them to provide you the consumer with an added layer of protection.  Private investigators help weed out the bad apples and increase the credibility of our industry.  See my blog Should Professional Investigators be Licensed for more information.  Be smart about who you hire, make sure you vett them thoroughly and don’t let caveat emptor be the standard.