Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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Posts Tagged ‘writers tips for fiction stories’

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.

Many PIs have law enforcement backgrounds

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.

Former-LEO PIs often have years of experience on the streets with tough, violent people

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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Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Investigators Investigating Kidnappings

Posted by Writing PIs on February 20, 2012

Today we’re answering a few writers’ questions about their stories where kidnappings occur and people hire private investigators. How might a U.S. private investigator get involved? What if the kidnapping occurred in another territory or country?

Writer’s Question: In my story, a 16-year-old girl is kidnapped and taken to Puerto Rico. Would an American PI have to check-in with the local police while searching for the missing girl in Puerto Rico?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: What if the PI visited Puerto Rico as a family friend? Personally, if we were contacted by someone who wanted to find a missing person in Puerto Rico, we’d go through our network to find a reliable, experienced PI in Puerto Rico and affiliate with that person. Our past experience has been 1-we can get into sticky legal situations if we go to another territory and 2-a local PI best knows the region, contacts, law enforcement, etc.

But for your story, perhaps you want your Florida PI-heroine to travel to Puerto Rico. Okay, back to her calling herself a family friend — that would work. Or, perhaps she does contact local law enforcement for advice, directions, or to let them know that she’s going to be doing things and visiting places related to the case, but she’s not a kidnapper herself. When we investigate cases in remote regions in Colorado, we always contact local law enforcement first (for their advice, directions, and sometimes just so they know we’re not suspicious characters).  But does your fictional PI have to contact law enforcement?  No.

Writer’s Question: What would happen if an American PI did not check-in with another country’s law enforcement and went about her business investigating?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: She could be brought in for questioning although she probably wouldn’t be charged with anything unless she impedes that government’s or the U.S. federal investigations of the missing person. If the American PI is licensed in a state (currently, only five U.S. states do not require licensure for PIs) — we’re guessing that state regulatory agency wouldn’t care if she’s in another country unless she committed a crime there. But we’re guessing. It’s a good idea to contact the state professional private investigator association (for the state in which your fictional PI is licensed) and see what they say about your story scenario.

Writer’s Question: How would you know if the missing person case you’re working on has crossed paths with the FBI? Would information be closed off to you? Would they pay you a visit in some way?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: The only way a PI is going to earn a visit from the FBI is if the PI interferes with the federal investigation. Yes, they would pay an in-person visit most likely.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in PI Topics, PIs Investigating Kidnappings | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Investigators Investigating Kidnappings

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