Investigation of any crime or unlawful activity is a precursor to bring guilty to the rule of law and deliver justice. Therefore, investigators play a crucial role in detecting and deterring crimes and other unlawful activities in any society, be it the United States from which perspective this article is specially written or elsewhere. In addition, investigations may also be for the satisfaction of a personal client, such as enquiring or verifying about the prospective groom.
The fields to investigate vary depending upon the activity or source where the investigation emanates to. An investigation to uncover misuse of information by a chief executive of a company to buy shares (insider trading) is quite different from a case of suicide or homicide. Therefore, over the years, the field of investigation has branched into many specialized parts, and now, most of the investigations are carried out by a team, comprising of specialized professionals from different areas. Still, basic rules of good investigations and desired qualities of good investigators are universal for all categories of investigations.
For criminal investigators dealing with cases such as suicide, homicide, or accident, the site of crime is the first place to start with. Properly interacting with witnesses and suspects, documenting and securing evidence are essential for them to unearth the truth. They have to obtain search warrants and formulate strategies for making arrests. Interrogating subjects like juvenile require special sensitivity.
When in police as detectives for local, state, or federal agencies, the minimal educational requirement is high school diploma. Some departments may require one or two years of a college course or in some cases, a college degree. But most of the learning is accomplished from intensive training in the agency’s police academy. They are supposed to comply with the law whether on or off duty (NSW Police Force). Besides, investigative agencies may hire specialized professionals such as forensic experts in case of a criminal investigation, CPA or other qualified management experts in case of a financial scam, depending upon a case. Many services are hired on a freelance basis. Expectations from society are high as they are seen as an authority and reliable figures to provide leadership and take charge of the situation (NSW Police Force). While hiring services, it is important that there should be no conflict of interest. Impartiality is important for fair justice.
One thing common about all successful investigators is their ability to look beyond the basic; keenness and eye for detail help crack many of the leads. Swanson, Chamelin, and Territo observe that successful investigators must be resourceful and good in communication. They must be strong in ethics and compassionate.
The services of government agents such as those in US Secret Service and DEA special agents carry special responsibilities that may require extensive travel. The stakes involved in terms of nation’s safety and security are too high and so are the personal commitments and sacrifice. At times, their job can be risky, not to say stressful.