Understanding People is Still
a PI's Priority

By John Huey

Hi-Tech investigation not always the answer

The breakthroughs in forensic science have had a big impact on Hollywood. TV shows like "C.S.I.", with their unique mix of science and drama, have dominated the ratings. The world they depict is one where science usually finds the "answers."

Think about it, The uncertainties of this relatively new science wouldn't be nearly as entertaining. In Hollywood, the good guys "get their man." But how do shows like these influence the viewing public?

Private Investigators see the answer in clients searching for hi-tech solutions to their problems. These clients assume that their "answers" are also waiting to be discovered scientifically.

There is a growing perception that science can solve any problem and society is becoming increasingly reliant on technology. We see public criticism, for instance, that even the Central Intelligence Agency's dependence on hi-tech forms of intelligence gathering affected its preparedness for terrorist attacks.

Hi-Tech and Private Investigation

There are undoubtedly great benefits for Private Investigators using new technologies. An investigator can now access billions of public records through the Internet and monitor remote locations with sophisticated surveillance systems. Improve security and privacy with cost-effective electronic detection equipment, and keep their operations mobile whenever the need arises. However, let us not forget what brought us to the dance.

Hi-tech tools will never replace a skillful interviewer who can understand context, discern underlying bias, and be alert to the pitfalls of language. Nor will it replace the critical thinker who can objectively evaluate evidence while forming a hypothesis. These are the areas where PIs do some of their best work.

The Riddles of Language

An investigator must always try to understand the context within which information is given. A more pragmatic approach to words is sometimes the best alternative, where dictionary definitions matter less than "catching the drift" of what the speaker is trying to express. The gift of a good situational sense can shine new light on even the simplest statement.

Trends are developing whereby private investigators like renowned detective and author William C. Dear, and criminal defense investigation specialist Brandon Perron teach the study of language and philosophy as powerful investigative tools.

Forensics and Private Investigation

Jurors rejected the "mountains" of forensic evidence against OJ Simpson in the now infamous double murders in Brentwood. The trial seemed to turn on human factors, which remain the meaningful domain of the investigator. Those with a strong faith in science still seem to overlook the "Trial of the Century's" true importance.

On the other side of this coin, Missourian Barry Roberson was convicted (without DNA) of sexual assault and is currently serving a 30-year sentence. Roberson's defense investigator passed away while his case was going to trial and Roberson lost his right for a new trial when his request was filed one day late.

The famed Innocence Project, founded by attorneys Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld, has used DNA to free 127 prisoners that were wrongly convicted. But let's face it, Roberson's case and so many others derive very little benefit from forensic science. The evidence in these types of cases resides almost exclusively in the realm of language.

Roberson, unlike the Innocence Project examples, is forced to push for executive clemency without the aid of DNA to demonstrate his claim of innocence.

Time Tested Techniques

The future of private investigation is solidly grounded in the time-tested techniques of the past. Today's investigator can integrate those tried and true techniques, the tools of the 21st century, and a broad understanding of the human condition, to build a powerful problem solving toolbox.

Hi-tech tools may offer new advantages, but understanding people is still our top priority. The old gumshoe is not gone, just growing up.

Used With permission from John Huey's website: Voice Of Justice http://www.voiceofjustice.com