Answering Writer’s Question: Are PIs and Cops Compatible?
Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2012
Today we answer a writer’s question — one that a lot of writers ask, actually — about PIs and law enforcement.
Writer’s Question: I just read a book where the police detective and the private eye kept sparring before developing a friendship. Are cops and PIs like that in the real world, too?
Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: We see that same kind of PI-cop conflict all the time in books, TV shows and movies, too. In reality, most real-life PI-cop relationships are characterized by professional distance and unemotional exchanges.
We’re saying most here. A majority of PIs have law enforcement backgrounds, and with the agencies with whom they worked, they typically maintain a more collegial relationship. Do these former law enforcement PIs get perks — such as inside information, tips, and access to law enforcement databases — from their former agencies (which is also often depicted in books and film)? No. Although there are friendly exchanges and social invitations exchanged, neither party wants to be seen as improperly advancing information and displaying favoritism to law enforcement officers (LEOs).
Here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we work with various PIs who are former LEOs. Generally speaking, we have found their life experience to cause their investigations to slant toward law enforcement and prosecution. While they work for defense lawyers, they still think like law enforcement officers.
Meaning, a former LEO PI might have unsubstantiated bias against their criminal defense clients. In all fairness, this bias is the product of years on the street with tough, violent, and often dishonest people — easy to see how a former-LEO PI might have developed opinions about the ethics of accused individuals.
To balance this point of view, former LEO PIs are also best situated to know how current police can make mistakes in their investigation procedures, such as Constitutional propriety and evidentiary processing. These PIs are best able to advise defense lawyers about how to attack the integrity of a police investigation.
The Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes PIs have a unique situation in their neighborhood. A few blocks over is a coffee shop owned and run by a local police detective (he works the small coffee shop during his off hours). We like to hang out at the coffee shop and jaw about cases, both past and current. Add to the mix that one of us is also a criminal defense attorney, there have been some lively conversations and a lot of good-natured teasing about our various roles.
To be clear, we never discuss shared cases. However, both the police detective and us get valuable information about the how-tos, whys, and the end results of investigations. In this particular relationship, all three of us step outside of our professional roles and transcend our rivalries.
Postscript: Our detective friend is planning on retiring in the next few years and is thinking about becoming a PI. We’ve invited him to join our agency. He’s invited us to take over his coffee shop.
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