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Investigations Basics - Part 6

A good memory

The third thing you need to have is a good memory.  Now we all are not gifted with having a good memory.  Frankly, mine is not all that good.  So I learned to compensate.  I record phone calls and interviews that are connected to the case.  I also take notes, just in case.  I am constantly using the reminders and calendar in my phone to keep me on schedule.  Use technology to your advantage and realize that being able to repeat or report on the information you obtain is a key element in the investigation’s success.
I also maintain a database of all my cases and any of my work that has every individual I get information on and from.  This can be very important, not only for your current case, but subsequent cases. It can also prevent you from conflict of interest later on down the road.

Take pictures and video, and don’t be shy about it.  Explain to others that you need to document who you have spoken with in the interview.  There are times where subtlety is needed, so use a spy camera for those occasions.  You don't have the mortgage the farm.  You can buy a key-chain camera online at eBay for around 12 dollars that will work just fine.  Have a good memory, but document everything you can with some type of recording.

Sometimes having a good memory means having a big enough memory card.

Stay safe!

Investigator Basics - Part 5

 Effective Communications Skills

As in many walks of life, you must be able to communicate effectively.  You need to be able to do this on the phone, in email, in written reports – almost in any form of communication you can think of.  Your ability to communicate on the phone will likely be what gets you more cases or not. 

It is not just about being able to express yourself either.  You must be a good listener in order to effectively communicate. In order to be good at interviewing people, you must be able to communicate effectively with the person to whom you are questioning. If you don’t have good listening skills, it will impair your real effectiveness as an interviewer.

As a consequence, you will find it very difficult to be a successful criminal defense or corporate investigator if you cannot conduct good interviews. There is nothing more offensive or annoying than someone speaking down to someone or using speech or language that is difficult to comprehend. You must be able to speak to anyone from a young person with a limited education to a professional person, in language that is appropriate and clear.  Always use the most concise word – the word that has the clearest meaning. 

Make sure that when you ask a question, it is not too complicated.  It is better to use several simple questions instead of a long complicated one.  This applies to information that you are giving too.  It is always better to be short and concise instead of wordy and complicated.

Try to keep your ideas and questions about certain issues together.  For instance, when covering the “Where” question: Keep all questions concerning the description of the location together.  Do the same thing when asking about the description of a person.  Keep those types of questions together. It is easier for the other person to keep their train of thought.  It is OK to go back later and ask a question on any topic for the purpose of finding out if they are telling the truth.

Avoid wording your questions so that you are asking about what a person does not know.   Do not ask “You didn’t see the license plate did you?” unless it is a follow up question to something they may have said about the license plate.  Instead ask them to describe what they remember about the vehicle.  You can help the person you are interviewing describe the vehicle by asking questions about the size, color, type, and so on. 

Here are some tips to communicating effectively:

  • ·         Listen, then in your own words repeat what you understand the person is telling you
  • ·         If you are giving any kind of information, ask if the other person understands the directions or information
  • ·         Project positive attitudes towards others and try to foster good human relations
  • ·         Be empathic and express concern for others
  • ·         Manage conversations and effectively draw out information
  • ·         Pay great attention to the other person’s non verbal cues
Whatever you do - Stay safe!

It Seems Someone Finally Got Caught

The headline reads "Beaumont man charged with impersonating private investigator."

I find it interesting that some that portrayed themselves so long as a private investigator was not caught sooner. Remember that not is it only illegal to work as a private investigator without a license, it is illegal to hire a non license PI for private investigations work.

Stay Safe!