From Law Enforcement to Private Investigation: Making the Transition

Former and retired police officers have several advantages when it comes to a career as a Texas Private Investigator. But they also have a couple of disadvantages, so it’s worth taking a moment to strategize any future career.

Previously I served as a Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy, a Colorado Ranger, and a police academy instructor.  I became a Texas PI four years ago and have worked with many cops from LAPD, APD (Austin), DPS, the FBI, and even one from the London Metropolitan Police Department.

The biggest adjustment for cops is that “customer service” actually means talking to and satisfying customers, not putting them in jail!  Not all cops are up for managing a business and dealing with customer issues.  But if you are, you can build a successful PI practice.


  1. It’s easy to get approved by the state to start a licensed private investigation agency
  2. Dealing with bad guys is not a problem
  3. Knowing the law is a huge advantage when it comes to investigating, interviewing, surveilling, and more
  4. Most customers will assume you can handle the work
  5. Dealing with law enforcement is obviously easier for cops than non-cops
  6. PI work is essentially case-work, cops are used to that
  7. Concepts like “subjects”, “objectives”, “security”, “witnesses” etc. are part of the cop’s environment


  • Making the transition to “customer service” 
  • Making the transition to running a business 
  • Navigating the law and low-budget PI cases (see an example below)


I had tracked a serial sexual predator to a house in Los Angeles.  The client was a Texas Family. His routine was to seduce minors in his dance program at his home, after getting permission from the parents for a sleepover and/or video training.  We believe he had had several victims. The ultimate goal was to catch him in the act for possible criminal and civil actions.

The PI working with me was a former LAPD officer and a great friend.  I told him to wait until the subject (the dance instructor) was in his house with one of the students, then approach the front door and peek in the window.  If he observed sexual activity, which would likely be a statutory rape, then he could call 911.  He didn’t want to do this because he believed it would be trespassing on his part.  I understood and accepted that.  I didn’t think LAPD would hesitate to make an arrest of a suspected rapist.  Nor would they care about the trespassing part.  And if he was on the walkway to the house, it shouldn’t technically be an issue at all.  But I had to respect his decision.

We were not able to get a satisfactory result in that case.  The budget ran out.  That predator is still out there.  I share this story because it’s the kind of ethical issue you’ll encounter as a PI.  Some PI’s would have risked trespassing to save a kid.  Others would not.  It’s up to you.


An important part of your future in becoming a Texas PI, is to choose your niche or niches.  I recommend trying everything at first, but then settling into 2-3 by your 2nd year.  

At StriderPI, we have counted over 80 niches that licensed private investigators can pursue.  That’s a robust set of options!  Here are a few that would provide a soft landing for former cops:

Surveillance: workmen’s comp, cheating spouse (aka “Fidelity Investigation”), civil lawsuits relating to lifestyle

Criminal Defense: a lot of cops may not want to do this, but they have the skill set and the cases can be interesting

Bounty Hunter: Only Texas PI’S can work as Bail Recovery Agents so if you want to do this work, become a PI.

Cold Cases: Plenty of cold cases around if you have the skill set and desire, but getting paid isn’t easy

Protection Work: This is not really the purview of Texas PI’s, but if you also get your PPO, it’s do-able.

Missing Persons: Another natural case of former and retired cops to work.

Undercover Operations: The danger in these types of cases is something most cops can handle and a lot of civilians cannot.




A lot of former LEO’s and FLEO’s become PI’s but they also have a pension.  This is the best model that I have seen!  Because it means that the time it takes to get started, is not overly stressful. You have a source of income.  Also, you can pick and choose your cases.  That’s a good place to be.



I have observed three really successful PI’s and I will tell you what they do.  Two were former cops.  One had been a Texas Police Captain.  The other had been an LAPD Sergeant.  The last one came from what I call the “weird group”.  You see about one-third of people becoming Texas PI’s were cops.  One-third were Feds. The last third are the “weird group”.  They come from every background imaginable.  And some of them are excellent.  So perhaps we should call that group something else. Mustangs?

The first one built a business over many years focused on surveillance and security.  He has over ten PI’s working for him, about half were cops and half were from the Mustang Group.  He’s very good at web marketing.  I’ve sat in his office while he takes calls. I used to work for him.

The second one move to Texas after he retired from the LAPD.  He works only on surveillance and primarily fidelity cases (some call them infidelity but I’m an optimist).  He has many attorney clients. He also has civilian clients.  He works more than anyone I know, maybe 70 hours per week and makes nearly $200k per year.  (or so he told me).  But I worked with him briefly and I believe it.  

The last one, who is part of the Mustang Group, started as a PI early in life.  He was never a cop.  He worked all kinds of cases for many years but then was offered full time work for a law firm.  He’s one of the few PI’s who always wears a suit.  Hardly anyone in Texas wears a suit except for lawyers and politicians.  He’s also doing very well because he’s very good at his law firm’s specialty of oil rig lawsuits and investigations.


We all know that training is the first step to starting a new job, but there are limited opportunities for this in the PI world.  Ideally, we would have our own academy.  Instead, there is nothing formal.  Across the country there are hundreds of online courses offered for PI’s.  Some of them are helpful.  I’ve taken dozens of courses myself. 

But to help new PI’s get started, I set up which only offers in-person courses.  I feel learning in-person is important for four reasons:

  1. Surveillance as PI’s practice it, must be learned by doing.  It’s really the only way.
  2. With our instructor ratio of 1:7, every student has the opportunity to ask as many questions as they want.
  3. Learning by trail and error is the best way to learn – so we encourage students to make mistakes
  4. In-person PI training allows us to get to know you.  This means we can advise you and sometimes make introductions.  We can’t do that via an online experience.



Service as a Texas PI has been the best job I have ever had.  I highly encourage you to check it out.  If I or my team can be of any assistance, please contact us.  Good luck out there!

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