Defining the Role of a Private Investigator

July 6, 2019

When would a private investigator’s services be necessary?

Have you ever found yourself wondering what exactly does a private investigator do?

There are instances in which an individual or a company wants to find out details about a situation, or character, or event - but doesn’t have the means, ability or expertise to conduct a private investigation on their own. Depending on their level of interest and willingness to invest in finding out this information, a private investigator’s expertise may be the best avenue to pursue.

Has a crime or potential crime taken place?

If a known criminal act has taken place, it would be a matter for police involvement. If someone is interested in finding information about a potential crime that they believe occurred, but there is no known act that has taken place, they may hire a private investigator.

A PI in this situation may conduct surveillance or make overt inquiries of potential witnesses. These investigations are done in an effort to substantiate something like a theft from a company or a conversion of funds or goods.

Oftentimes, after a private investigation reveals a suspect and a crime that has been committed, the information can be turned over to local, state or federal law enforcement depending upon the type of crime that was committed.

Who generally hires a private investigator?

Most private citizens never have a need to hire a private investigator. Often times attorneys, insurance companies, or businesses of all sizes have a need to hire an investigative firm to pursue a variety of things. Corporate malfeasance, pilferage, insurance fraud, theft and litigation support are common elements of a private investigation

What is the process for hiring a private investigator?

When someone reaches out to a private investigator with a problem, the investigator should take all the facts, examine the known circumstances, and then provide a plan of action toward reaching a solution. That solution may be a certain employee of a company being terminated, and/or the information being turned over to law enforcement. Or the result could be deemed unfounded, which would simply mean that the “hunch” or “information that was learned” did not turn out to be the nefarious act once thought to be.

In other words - if a company contacts a private investigator with confidential information from an employee that another employee is engaged in fraudulent or unlawful activity, and further investigation revealed that the information was false or erroneous, the finding becomes unfounded and the matter is resolved. However, the company/complainant may have had a duty to make the inquiries. Some companies are duty bound because of their regulatory structure. Others may not be, but would utilize a private investigator to ensure their company is ethically sound.

No matter what the reason, if there are grounds for an investigative inquiry and funding is available, it is prudent to pursue to arrive at the truth. People’s careers can be broken over misinformation and companies’ reputations can be sullied by not doing the right thing or turning a blind eye. So, when in doubt, don’t leave it out!


Brendan P. Doherty,
President, Doherty Group LLC
Providence, RI