The Three R’s in Investigations
Posted by Pamela S. on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
You are right. There is no “R” in investigation. The “Three R’s” refers to the basic skills that are taught in grade school; reading, writing, and arithmetic. These three skills seem to have gone by the wayside. Most people now think of the three Rs as Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. That is a great thing too, so let’s put the two together. How do both forms of the three R’s apply to private investigation? I’ll figure out a way.
Finding information and using it in the appropriate manner is what investigations are all about. It is about education, creativity, and innovation. There are processes to follow, but you also have to be able to think on the fly and come up with ideas when you hit a dead end. To do that, you have to have a base of knowledge and a strategic and analytical mind. This may seem condescending, but I wouldn’t have to write this post if I didn’t come across so many people (across the board) who have forgotten how important this is. Texting is partly to blame.
I’ve written about this a lot lately; the lost art of reading and the use of infographics in place of narrative. You should read. Read news, read actual books, whether they come in paper or digital form. How is this for some beach-side reading? Check out “Principles of Investigative Documentation: Creating a Uniform Style for Generating Reports and Packaging Information” by Philip Becnel and Scott Krischke.
The bane of every investigator’s existence seems to be report writing. Not everyone can write a compelling report; it is an art. The more you do it, the better you get. A good report starts with good notes. Many investigators like to dictate their notes, but you should always take handwritten notes. As we all know, technology can go haywire when you least expect it. If you only have a voice recording to rely on, you will be in trouble. Take those notes and add detail, but not extraneous detail. It should be pertinent to your investigation.
Every investigation company prepares their reports differently. The goal should be to prepare a report that is accurate, easy to read and understand, and error free. Write as you go, and after it is finished, proofread it.
Math is my weakness. I can’t do anything without a calculator. Investigators have to estimate things that require numbers. Things like the height, weight and age of a subject or other individuals. Distances and speeds. You have to tally up your budget and how many hours and mileage you have left on a file when you are doing surveillance. OK, use a calculator.
The next three R’s usually apply to going green. That is a fabulous thing, but I’m going to apply it to something else.
Surveillance can be costly. Gas isn’t cheap. Unfortunately most of the vehicles we use for surveillance aren’t hybrids. Let’s face it; a Toyota Prius doesn’t really make a good surveillance vehicle. Ethanol isn’t my favorite, but some people like it. There is that whole “food vs. fuel” debate that makes me wonder if it is a good choice for the environment. Choose a vehicle best suited to surveillance, but with good mileage. I’m sure that down the road we will all be driving electric or other forms of vehicles that don’t run on fossil fuels.
To me, reuse means taking what you know and building on it. Reuse what you have learned and you will get better at it. If you don’t use it, you lose it, as they say. Learn what your strengths are, and build on them. Don’t be afraid to examine your weaknesses and become a better investigator. No one can do everything, which is why there are specialties. Find out what yours is.
Share. That is pretty much what recycling means. I try to share information in this blog. Obviously, in our industry there is a lot of confidential and proprietary information. There are also a lot of investigators who share information on the Internet. It is a competitive industry, but that is why we have blogs and associations and other forms of sharing.“Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes” is a blog written by a couple of private investigators who are also writers. Like Sheer Investigations, they share their know-how with their peers and their clients. A certain amount of transparency can only make our industry stronger and healthier.
Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.