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do i need to be a cop to become a pi

do i need to be a cop to become a pi

By Dave Amis, Strider Investigations, Inc.

An important question that often comes up is whether one needs to be a cop to be a good Private Investigator.  The answer is no. But…cops do have advantages when it comes to dealing with hardened criminals, investigating, and doing surveillance.  So one might consider becoming a cop or a reserve cop before entering private investigations.  In my opinion, those without law enforcement experience, even as little as one year of experience, have a disadvantage in that they don’t understand what the cops are doing.  That said, I know many great Private Investigators who were not cops.

For example, I was investigating a subject in a civil case.  The client wanted information relating to prostitution and cocaine use.  I requested another PI who could help with an undercover operation.  I wanted him to approach the subject and start a conversation about cocaine.  He told me, “I can do that, but I can’t use any cocaine for this case, right?”  Then he added, “What if she has cocaine and offers me some?  I’ll have to call the police!”.  

This PI, without any former law enforcement experience, did not understand a couple of things.  First of all, using cocaine is a crime in 100% of all circumstances.  PI’s are not allowed to commit crimes to prove crimes, neither are the police.  Secondly, there is a concept in law enforcement called “discretion”.  Cops do not have to arrest someone even if they commit a crime in front of them.  Members of the public are not required to report crimes as well.  

I decided not to use that PI.  His understanding of crime was too elementary.

What happened?  We eventually proved our subject was engaged in prostitution by using an undercover female to hang out in the lobby of her office building with a survey for “young professionals”.  The survey had 20 questions.  But we only cared about question #17; “Have you ever exchanged sex in return for something of financial benefit? If so, what?”  She answered – “yes – I got cash a few times and one time I got a Lincoln”.  That was proof enough for a civil suit.  Case closed.

I often tell people that Texas PI’s fall into three categories:

  1. Ex-Cops
  2. Ex-Feds
  3. The “Mustangs” 

The Mustangs come from all walks of life, all kinds of backgrounds, and often have unique skills that those from law enforcement may lack.  In my personal experience, the cops and Feds are better at criminal investigations, criminal defense, accident reconstruction, missing persons, kidnapping and other crimes or situations.  But Mustangs often excel at surveillance, insurance fraud, infidelity, corporate, OSINT, computer forensics and many others. One sub-group of Mustangs are ex-military.  They can make great Private Investigators due to their comfort level with training, military discipline, and chain-of-command.  

At the end of the day, there are many paths to becoming a Texas Private Investigator.  It’s worth the effort, even if it takes years, because it’s the greatest job on the planet.