There is a widespread misconception that ex-cops would immediately make good private investigators (PI). In truth, having a background in law enforcement is not a requirement in becoming a private investigator. It doesn’t even guarantee that the private investigator will be any good. What is true is that there are a lot of private investigators who are ex-law enforcement, which means that an expert private investigator has a good chance of being an ex-cop.
That being said, a good cop does have a great foundation to become a good private investigator. There are characteristics that a police officer can pick up over the years of service that will help if they decide to pursue a career in private investigation. These characteristics are:
- Relevant Experience and Skills
Police detectives with years of experience in investigating cases will find that their experience can be helpful in the private sector. Investigating missing persons, fraud, murder, and other criminal cases require the same skill sets that they would have used when they were with the police department.
Police investigators receive training in investigative, interviewing, and information gathering techniques – essential skills for any private investigator. While these can also be learned by PIs from non-law enforcement backgrounds, ex-cops already have these skills and often have been practicing them for years. This means that an ex-cop who is starting out as a private investigator will find the career change less difficult than a new PI who did not have police background.
- Familiarity with Local Law and Legal Process
Police officers usually serve for 20-25 years before leaving the force. They become familiar with the local laws and would be a great asset in any legal investigation. As a result, they are able to investigate angles of the case that are most relevant to the attorneys they work with. Some of them have had experience in testifying in court, which can sometimes be necessary for a private investigator.
Filing reports are an important part of being a police officer and a PI. Clients would require a comprehensive report that is ironclad and can stand up in court if needed. An ex-police officer would have years of practice in compiling detailed reports that help decide the outcome of a court case.
- Network of Contacts
During the course of their careers, police officers get to know the local community and build a network of contacts. When they move on to private investigations, these contacts can help them in their careers by providing information and advice.
Attorneys can be good employers or sources of legal advice. Other notable contacts are those from within the police department itself. Note that PIs can’t ask police officers to disclose information or to conduct unethical actions. However, a PI can ask their police contacts, especially senior or specialist officers, for advice on difficult cases.
One of the things that have been instilled in any good police officer is professionalism. It has been drilled into them from the academy – how to dress properly and act in public. It is not just a matter of how they present themselves but also with how they deal with issues that crop up. Professionalism is also displayed when keeping to deadlines and in the tone of their reports.
Professionalism in a private investigator is a factor in keeping the client’s trust. A client can find it hard to retain private investigators that look slovenly – especially if the client is a company or institution that expects employees and contractors to look presentable. Clients expect that reports are submitted on time and that they will not be embarrassed by their private investigator’s actions.