When a PI takes the time to build a good relationship with local law enforcement, the outcome benefits not just the PI, but the police and the community as a whole.
Why? PIs are able to handle cases that police may not have sufficient evidence to be able to begin looking into. They can help obtain evidence, gather depositions and extend the surveillance capabilities of law enforcement. They can also share information, expertise and resources, helping both from a crime management and prevention perspective.
Here’s how PIs can build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with local law enforcement.
Tap into shared experience
Many PIs have law enforcement backgrounds. They know the ins and outs of police work – the challenges, the processes and the procedures. Private investigators who leverage this shared background will be able to more readily build good working relationships with local law enforcement. We’re all working towards the same end goal, so take advantage of that point of commonality.
Collaborate and share expertise
Private/public collaborations are on the rise, and now is a good time for private investigators to actively work alongside law enforcement. These collaborations can help expand capacity in rural or remote areas, as well as in high-volume areas. Additionally, many PIs have specific expertise in areas such as digital or high-tech investigations. Sharing this knowledge through training or forums can help build positive relationships between private investigators and law enforcement.
Join a formal alliance
Some states and cities have created formal alliances and organizations that enterprising private investigators can participate in. These range from incorporated non-profits to informal “clubs”, with varying missions and leadership styles. Actively participating in one of these alliances is a powerful way to show your support of local law enforcement and reinforce the synergy between PI and police work.
Participate in information sharing
Sharing information about crimes, including business crimes, and convictions (if authorized) can help improve knowledge and capacity in both sectors. PIs can share local crime trends, incidents and methods, providing the information needed to help direct law enforcement resources.
Create opportunities to network
Visibility is key to helping build good relationships. Breakfasts and lunch meetings, lectures and speeches are all opportunities for showcasing the value of PI work and how it relates to law enforcement’s efforts. You can also consider options such as resource sharing, training and workshops, and shared drafting and tracking of proposed legislation. Take any opportunity available to present yourself in a positive, proactive and professional light – and in doing so aligning yourself with local law enforcement.
Follow the rules (and laws)
A lot of wariness about the role of PIs stems from perceptions that we play by our own rules. In fact, we’re bound by the same laws and generally the same professional conduct requirements as police. Adhering to the law as well as to established procedures and practices will ensure that you’re not undermining local law enforcement. Play by the book, and the police will be more likely to cooperate with you when you need them.
Much of what we do as PIs relies upon strong relationships. Taking the time to cultivate connections with local law enforcement will help build both your business and your skills – while also benefiting the local community. Rather than working in silos, let’s make the most of the overlap between our work.