The public investigation represents the sovereignty of government, whose authority is vested in constitutional, statutory law and even case law. Its efforts are financed by public funds, replenished through taxation. Whilst in the private sector, it would be funded by clients that require the services of Private Investigators.

The private investigator represents management or his client, with some authority derived from statutory and case laws. The same authority is afforded to any citizen, such as the power to make arrests under certain conditions, although that power and authority are unknown to most private citizens. In addition, the private security investigator has delegated authority from senior company management and the constitution of the State or Country.


In the public sector, there are relatively few limitations to such information as criminal records, government records, and files at municipal, county, state, and federal levels. On the other hand, there are accelerating limitations on private access to public records.


Most investigators in the public sector are in a civil service system with clearly defined job security, and labor unions represent many, as well. The private investigator has reasonable job security (as opposed to the unreasonableness of some civil service and labor contracts), provided by the organization’s human resource policies. Normally, corporate or company investigators are not part of a labor bargaining entity.



Public investigators tend to specialize in specific areas of concentration, depending on the agency, department, or assignment. They are burglary detectives, forgery detectives, homicide detectives, state or federal narcotics investigators, immigration investigators, and so on.

Private security investigators tend to be “generalists,” although some specialize in such areas as forgery or fraud when employed by finance and credit companies. They are generalists not only in the sense of working across the broad spectrum of business and commercial interests, ranging from quiet investigations into indiscretions related to executive sexual involvement with subordinates to tracking down counterfeiting of corporate negotiable instruments, such as coupons, event tickets, and company checks, but also in the attendant need for wide-ranging information, intelligence, and skills.


Public investigators can command immediate respect and attention based on the color of authority, generally supported by impressive credentials such as badges. Although inherited, such authority must continue to be earned to maintain that favorable image.


Public investigators engaged in day-in-and-day-out activities are relatively free from civil actions because of governmental immunity. Civil action filings, if they occur at all, usually follow only extremely aggravated incidents. In this respect, governmental agencies are not as tempting a target as, for example, a utility company.


Once on the job, the public investigator attends publicly funded schools, classes, or academies, usually of high quality, from basic in-service training to advanced and specialized courses, depending on the area of specialization. At the end of the 1950s, only thirteen institutions of higher learning offered a bachelor’s degree in police science and administration or a similarly designated program.

Today, hundreds of US universities and colleges offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in private investigation, police science, criminal justice, homeland and corporate security, and law enforcement administration. More recently, some private universities in Nigeria offer undergraduate in criminology, Forensic Science but not full detailed Private Investigation courses.

Just a few short years ago, investigators in the private sector invariably came from governmental agencies. The public sector was the training ground. College curriculums rarely included courses in security.


In carrying out an investigation, officials in the public sector are able to call upon an extensive arsenal of such technical resources as questioned document examiners, crime laboratory facilities, forensic computer analysts, computer reconstruction artists, and fingerprint classification specialists, to name just a few. Within the private sector, the investigator has limited access, if any at all, to such publicly supported resources.


Such agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation have attained a high level of respected professionalism, both in fact and in profile, by virtue of their reputations, known standards, and visibility through the media (both in fictional entertainment and factual news reporting). To a lesser extent, this is true of other law enforcement agencies at the state and local level. Perhaps the epitome of investigative professionalism is the homicide detective in a modern metropolitan police force. In general, the premise that criminal investigators in the public sector are indeed professional, in every sense of the word, goes relatively unchallenged; however, unseen by the general public’s eye are the unsolved crimes, some of international note. But in most cases, respect for their work is rightfully deserved.


In the public sector investigative agency-the FBI, for example-the entry-level position would certainly include pure investigatory responsibilities. In a generalized agency, such as a police department, the position of investigator is a promotional and relatively low position in the organizational structure, at the rank of or equivalent to sergeant. From detective or investigator, one can move up to supervisorial investigator (lieutenant), then to a management-level position (captain or chief of detectives). This means that one can advance vertically while remaining in an investigative career.

In the private sector, there is a more pronounced trend toward moving talent up into the investigative position as a part of the individual’s development and growth.

Few investigations, public or private, develop in a vacuum. The very nature of the investigative process involves calling on others for information or assistance.

In the public sector, irrespective of departmental and jurisdictional rivalries (which do exist), the exchange and flow of information are rarely, if ever, denied the investigator. It is an unwritten rule that one investigator will share information and assist another if such assistance is sought.

With regard to the assistance provided by informants, it has often been said that the success of any detective in large measur upe rests upon his or her sources of information. Tips are provided by those seeking favor or “tolerance”-prostitutes and drug addicts, for example-by spurned or jealous lovers seeking revenge, and by a whole host of other sources, anonymous and otherwise, acting from an endless variety of motives, all desirous of seeing a culprit caught. To a lesser extent, monetary rewards also generate information. There is little in the way of rivalries or jealousy in the private sector to hinder cooperation. An investigator for one utility company can call on a similar firm and, as a rule, count on and receive prompt assistance. This form of cooperation knows no political boundaries. Using such publications as the ASIS membership directory, which alphabetizes members by personal as well as organizational name, one investigator can call another across the country. If the investigator is unknown at the receiving end, that party can verify the identity and affiliation of the caller by use of the same directory. Once identity is established, information can be exchanged.


Without question, all investigators experience a real sense of achievement when a criminal is taken into custody at the successful resolution of a case, especially if the investigation has been lengthy and difficult.

Bearing in mind, however, that the real objective of criminal investigations in the public sector is the successful prosecution of the offender, it must be recognized that there is a high (and rising) level of frustration for investigators in this area. The work of the investigator can bring little lasting satisfaction when, as happens all too frequently in the present climate, trial court decisions are reversed in the appellate courts. And if appellate reversals based on liberal interpretations of the law do not bring frustration, wrist-slapping sentences handed down by the court will do it.


There have evolved a number of reasons why the private sector has begun to rely more heavily upon private investigative professionals. Private organizational objectives are oriented principally toward profit. Many of the crimes perpetrated against those same corporations involve attacks upon the assets and profitability of the organizations. Frequently, however, companies do look at public prosecution of employee criminals as a desirable deterrent to future similar episodes. Such prosecutions also give heart to the honest employees in the company who detest dishonesty in the work force.

Unfortunately, with the emphasis in public law enforcement on illegal drug suppression and violent crime reduction, property crimes perpetrated against faceless corporate victims receive second-level priority. This, combined with understaffed police agencies, has forced companies, in effect, to find their own solutions.

In dwelling at some length in this chapter on the observable differences between public and private investigators, it is not our purpose to widen the gap between them, but rather to identify those differences for better understanding of common interests and goals. With increased understanding, how much easier it is to communicate and work together!


To the uninitiated, the aspirant, and the distant observer, there is an aura of romanticism surrounding investigators and their work. That illusion is quickly dispelled in the light of reality. The real world of investigative work is hard, demanding, and rarely glamorous. Occasionally a case may come along that is exciting, or one in which the answers come easily, but as a rule, investigation is a tedious, exhausting, frustrating, time-consuming, and sometimes dirty (in the literal sense) process. Invariably novice investigators are somewhat dismayed by the difference between their preconceptions of the nature of the work and the reality.

· Perseverance is the one overriding human trait or characteristic among the many deemed necessary, or at least highly desirable, for investigative work.

· Charles O’Hara boils it down to three: character, judgment, and the ability to deal with people And the venerable “green book,” Municipal

· Police Administration, has its own list, including “the ability to be deceptive.”

· Collating, modifying, deleting, and adding to the suggestions in these sources, we have identified twenty-one qualities or characteristics that are necessary in the effective investigator. The qualities or characteristics are:

• Observant

• Resourceful

• Patient

• People-oriented

• Understanding of human behavior

• Knowledgeable about legal implications of the work

• Skilled in communicating

• Receptive

• Possessed of a sense of well-being

• Dedicated to the work

• Able to be a self-starter

• Skeptical

• Intuitive

• Energetic

• Able to be a good actor

• Capable of sound judgment

• Logical

• Intelligent

• Creatively imaginative

• Of good character

• Professional


The manager of an investigation unit performs five different roles, each of which requires investigative experience. Such a manager functions as all of the following:

• An investigative counselor

• An investigative trainer

• An investigative controller

• An investigative motivator

• An investigative evaluator


Undercover investigations are essentially intelligence or “spy” operations within any given area or unit of a corporation. As such, the investigation is definitely covert in its nature and operation. Effectively, no one should know an investigation is in progress other than those directly responsible.

The obvious advantage of an undercover operation is that it gives management an accurate picture of what is occurring in detail, on a day-to-day basis, in a designated area of the organization. As a rule, management does not really know what is going on in line units. It relies on supervision to keep superior officers apprised. Obviously, poor or dishonest supervisors will not report on themselves or their subordinates.

Another invaluable aspect of this covert activity is that the undercover investigator is in the position not only to observe dishonesty but also to participate in it, along with all the other employees who have chosen to become involved. This provides security and management with intimate details of employee theft and other illegal activities.

Undercover investigations may be conducted on a random basis, or they may be undertaken with specific targets, for example, when there is information about or suspicion of dishonesty in a given area, such as the shipping and receiving department in the preceding illustration. Random assignments are simply tests of work areas. If dishonesty or any other form of unacceptable conduct exists in that area, it will be discovered. Unacceptable behavior might include the use of alcohol or drugs on the job; cheating on the time clock; gross carelessness that causes damage to materials, equipment, or goods; or any number of other actions that commonly constitutes problems in the work environment.

The objectives of constructive or undercover investigations in the private sector are:

• To discover internal dishonesty.

• To identify all parties involved in the dishonest activity.

• To identify the organizational, operational, or physical failure that contributed to or permitted     the dishonesty to occur.

• To purge the organization of all guilty employees (or outsiders who contract for or otherwise service the organization).

• To correct the identified deficiencies.

Compiled By:

Dr. Ohio O. Ojeagbase (MBA, ERMAP, PhD), Private & Corporate Investigator, Business Strategist, Turnaround Expert, Governance & Asset Recovery-Faculty Member, College of Private Investigators (The Elevation College), C/O Kreeno International Limited. Email: and Tel: +234 708 832 5000 KREENOPLUS COUNTER FRAUD DIVISION / PROBITASREPORT



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