What does the future hold for the P.I.?
Rodney D Shaw II
The Private Investigation field has changed so much with the introduction of new technology and innovations; the boundaries of have been pushed back so far they have become blurred. Old skills and ways of doing things have seemingly become obsolete. It is getting tougher and tougher to answer the simple question What does a Private Investigator do? Tough question, isnít it? I am assuming that if you are reading this article you are in the business or at least in a related field, so if anybody should be able to answer that question it is you. ButÖ do you think your answer would be the same as the next person who reads this article? Have you already thought of another answer or something you wanted to add to your first thought? I bet you have, I know I have revised my answer countless times. In simplest terms we investigate and according to my handy Websterís investigate is defined as to observe or study by close examination. That seems easy enough but where it gets tricky is when talking about how we observe, what we observe or what we study. Really I canít the question for you, just as canít answer it for me. Each investigator is going to answer that question on their own and I am sure the answers are going to evolve over time. That is one of the great things about this business, there is a lot of room to grow and different directions to move in.
Perhaps an even more important is what does the future hold for a private investigation industry? The private investigation field has broadened so much and went off into so many diverse specialties that it is getting harder and harder for a P.I. hang out a shingle and advertise ìgeneral investigationsî without claiming some kind of computer specialization. But is this a good thing? Perhaps the profession in its zeal to modernize is losing touch with its roots. I wonder if perhaps the explosion of the Internet is not creating a new breed of private investigators that have never do field work. Will the P.I. of the future. spend all of his time at the computer surfing the Internet? The amount of information that can be gleaned from the World Wide Web by a knowledgeable operator is staggering, what used to take days of research and digging can now be found in minutes. I can remember crawling around with a flashlight in unlit, unheated basements of county courthouses looking for old records that may or may not have been properly filed before being put into storage and I am sure most of you can recount similar tales. Now there are databases everywhere with information about virtually everything. On the surface this would seem to be a good thing, ButÖ what happens if that one vital piece of information isnít to be found on the ëNet, or you have to have an actual notarized copy of the record for your client. Will a hotshot computer jockey know how to go down to the courthouse and find the document? Also there are other types of information out there that will never show up on a computer, such as what can be gathered from informants, contacts on the police force, telephone company and other places that will make your life easier, even the nosey next door neighbor. All of these people are invaluable sources of information that you canít get anywhere else and it takes skill to be able to develop and use them properly.
I am not trying to tell anyone how to do his or her job because I do think that a P.I. should take advantage of all the resources available to them to make the job easier. What I am trying to say is that computers should be used as a tool to aid you, not as a crutch that you become totally dependent upon. Private investigators need to be concentrate on learning the basics first, because once they develop those skills it will help them become better investigators no matter what the specialty. A new investigator should start out researching things the hard way so they will know how, not waiting until it becomes crucial to a case and then doing it by trail and error. They need to develop their people skills how to make contacts and friends in the right places. Perhaps take some classes or seminars in communication. Learn them just in case, something might come up and they will need to come from behind their desk and go out t in the field. Even a Private Investigator who specializes in this area or that is going to have cases that call for other skills outside of his bailiwick. Being a well-rounded investigator well-skilled in the basics and having a broad general knowledge of the field can only help. They are the foundation of the field that everything else is built upon. Lastly donít forget the thrill factor, this is why some get into the field in the first place. Following people, doing surveillance, all the cloak and dagger stuff can be exciting or at least more so then staring at a computer screen all day. I know some of you with more experience are thinking surveillance is glamorous? Let me guess, perhaps you are thinking of a January night around 3:30am when it is so cold you havenít couldnít feel your fingers or toes, or maybe a day in mid July in the afternoon and you were in the back of a van in your boxers sweating buckets. Yeah that was exciting stuff huh? But at the end of a successful surveillance job no matter how difficult didnít you get a little pleasure from the fact that you did it, you nailed the suspect, got the goods, broke the case? Lets face it, even though real P.I. work is nothing like shown on TV or in the movies it still can provide an adrenaline rush that you canít get at a computer.
The only thing I can think of that a private investigator must do, no matter what specialties he may practice is conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner. The industry has been coming under close scrutiny as of late. Private investigators have been cast in a bad light recently by the media, we must combat this and one of the most important ways is to not give them anymore more ammunition to use against us. I know that vast majority of men and women in this field are honest and moral. They do the job the right way, legally everyday. But it is the few bad apples that are in every bunch that could cripple the effectiveness of us all if we let them. I think local and national professional associationís need to play a major role in policing our ranks before the government steps in and does it for us, also they need to keep the members informed of potential legislation affecting the industry.