Recently, I talked about the importance of licensing for private investigators. In this issue I will try to point out how recent government legislation for the licensing of the individual investigator has created a large problem for the investigative industry. The relatively new licensing regulation was meant to reduce the amount of administration when a person moved from one agency to another. Generally, the re-licensing took between two days and a week but now an individual with his or her new investigators license can work anywhere, for anyone, at anytime. Employers as well as the government have no way to account for the whereabouts of these individuals, who they’re working for or if they’re operating within the guidelines set out for the investigative industry. At Integra not only is our staff licensed but, they are under explicit employment contracts that include non-compete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality clauses as well as specific wording that protect our clientele.
The law is very clear on this next point. Investigative services can only be offered and performed by a licensed agency. In order to be licensed an investigative company must adhere to stringent rules and regulations that include specific reporting, filing and record keeping protocols. They must be insured and bonded. These newly licensed individuals can only work through the auspices of a licensed investigative agency. For the most part, the public is unaware of this fact and can be easily duped by the various on-line advertisements or flyers that seem to be prevalent at the moment.
There are many professions that require a license from a government body before they can offer services to the public. The private investigative industry is no exception, in order to perform the various services, regardless of what they may be, from security guard to high end surveillance the investigator must have a license issued from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and must be bonded and insured.
There are also organizations and associations that help to govern and police our industry. After all, integrity and credibility are the cornerstones of trust in our business. The Council of Private Investigators – Ontario (CPIO) is a non-profit organization that serves the interest of licensed private investigators in the province and where I serve as the Director and Chair of the Ethics and Special Committees. This organization is here to encourage our membership to adhere to a strict code of conduct but when it comes to addressing this individual licensing issue and representing their member- ship there seems to be a lack of urgency and concern when called upon to provide a proactive solution to the Ministry in this case.
One would think that with the many safeguards in place to protect not only the public but also the interests of the professional investigator the need to point out flagrant oversights in legislation wouldn’t be necessary. As I see the proliferation of “seedy” advertisements that offer a variety of security and investigative services and read about the criminal misconduct of supposedly “legitimate” investigators I realize that there is a distinct need to address the lack of accountability and a direct avenue of communication to report misconduct.
In order to ease the burden of administration the government has created legislation that left unchecked will produce a “wild west” atmosphere of disregard and recklessness in our business. It will in effect destroy the efforts we have so diligently worked towards to professionalize our industry. My due diligence has uncovered that many of these “so-called” investigators may be licensed but are not insured or bonded, or on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services licensed agency list. They provide their services with little or no training and often are ill equipped to correctly perform even the simplest of investigative tasks. For the unhappy customer there is no effective way they can report misconduct or unsatisfactory results.
There are also serious ramifications from the investigative employers perspective. For example, when I look to hire a new investigator there is no resource for me to determine simple issues of personal integrity, employment history or whether or not there have been any professional breaches of rules and regulations. I’m forced to accept the “face value” that any individual investigator wishes to present and other than calling references itmakes a proper due diligence scrutiny very difficult.
On the other side of this discussion, if I fire someone with cause for falsifying reports, committing timesheet fraud or providing false video evidence this person could be hired the next day by another investigative agency without previous disclosure of any misconduct or possible corrupt performance.
There is something inherently wrong when an individual investigator, license in hand can perform tasks where they lack the required training and experience, yet are able to provide legal evidence which may have been gathered incorrectly and possibly illegally. Many of these same individuals disregard proper reporting protocols and don’t follow correct filing and billing rules, move from one agency to another or work illegally on their own with no respect for professional principles or the integrity of the profession and they often do it with anonymity. If caught and they rarely are, the punishment is a meager fine and a request to get insurance. After having submitting numerous written conduct reports on individual investigators to the Registrar of Licensed Investigators, I’ve been disappointed after months of waiting to learn that very little if any punishment or repercussions have been doled out.
In our attempts to continue to develop the professionalism of the investigative industry the issue of licensing individual investigators must be brought to the attention of the Registrar of Private Investigators, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in a meaningful way with the complete endorsement and support of the Council of Private Investigators – Ontario. We must provide viable and enforceable solutions that the Ministry can adopt or at the very least have them revise the existing legislation to prevent the potential liability and extensive damages that these individual investigators represent to the public and the industry.
Their needs to be accountability! A direct line of communication to the Ministry needs to be established, one that will bring to bear a definitive and effective penalty for professional misconduct. A sense of urgency and a proactive approach is required to correct this oversight of government legislation. As employers of investigative professionals it’s essential to look beyond the license!