Professional Standards apply to investigators and the organizational environment in which they perform. These standards address qualifications, independence, and due professional care.
These individuals should have a proficiency for the task and present themselves in a professional manner.
This responsibility falls upon the organization conducting the investigations. This organization should only choose those individuals with the appropriate knowledge and skill set.
Investigations vary in purpose and scope and may involve alleged violations of criminal (ranging from misdemeanor to felony) or civil laws, as well as administrative requirements. Others involve administrative misconduct issues. Investigations often require using specialized techniques and having an extensive knowledge base and skill set to adequately conduct the various investigations.
Only the best and most qualified applicants should be considered in the recruitment process. Education, experience, character, and physical abilities should be considered as factors when choosing entry-level investigators.
“Organizations should establish appropriate avenues for investigators to acquire and maintain the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities; complete entry-level training, participate in in-service training; and receive professional development opportunities.”
Education —It is preferred that all newly appointed investigators possess a 4-year degree from an accredited college. Higher education will help the investigator better cope with the extensive demands of the daily caseload. A college degree will enhance the investigator’s communication skills in dealing with suspects, victims, co-workers, court personnel, and the public.
Experience —Depending on the specific needs of the agency, consideration may be made for candidates to substitute job experience for a college education. Suitable job experience can provide the candidate with proof of their knowledge, skills, and abilities as an investigator.
Character —Each investigator must conduct themselves with the highest standard of honesty, integrity, ethics, and professionalism. Criminal investigators routinely gain access to personal information that may be sensitive in nature, whether it is during the execution of search warrants, arrest warrants, or other types of seizures. As a result, the investigator’s character should be beyond reproach.
A huge part of this responsibility falls on the hiring agency. They have a duty to properly screen applicants, perform thorough background checks, review credit history, and conduct proper drug testing.
Physical Capabilities —Each investigative organization may develop job-related physical or medical requirements, as long as they are consistent with current statutes, regulations, and agency policies. This will help investigators to better perform their duties while promoting their personal well-being.
“It is in the interest of an investigative agency to establish and maintain a vibrant workforce because an investigator’s duties frequently require irregular unscheduled hours, personal risk, exposure to extreme weather, considerable travel, and arduous exertion. Investigators are frequently engaged in stressful encounters and can be victims of stress-related medical disorders.”
Knowledge, Abilities, and Skills —Several prerequisites are required as an investigator due to the crucial and sensitive nature of the position:
- A knowledge of current investigative techniques and the ability to apply that knowledge to the case at hand;
- A knowledge of government organizations and their purposes; and, where appropriate, their association with the private sector;
- A knowledge of the Constitution; Criminal Procedure; and other relevant laws, and regulations;
- Ability to be tactful, take initiative, use ingenuity, and be resourceful; while using good judgment in collecting evidence, analyzing facts, and other pertinent information; all the while translating and organizing into clear and articulated oral and written reports;
- Ability to safely and efficiently carry out law enforcement powers, where duly authorized, including carrying firearms, applying for and executing search warrants, serving subpoenas, and making arrests;
- The skills required to conduct an investigation include the ability to:
- Gather necessary information;
- Evaluate and understand recorded evidence;
- Maintain witness confidentiality and “whistleblower” concepts;
- Analyze and examine facts; make sound and objective assessments and observations; and, where appropriate, make constructive recommendations;
- Use computer equipment and applications, effectively in support of the investigative process;
- Deliver clear, concise, accurate, and factual results of investigations, both orally and in writing;
- Prepare and obtain signed, sworn statements;
“This qualification standard recognizes that proper training is required to meet the need for the broad range of specialized knowledge and skills necessary to conduct investigations.”
B. INDEPENDENCE OR IMPARTIALITY
“The second general standard for investigative organizations is:
In all matters relating to investigative work, the investigative organization must be free, both in fact and appearance, from impairments to independence; must be organizationally independent; and must maintain an independent attitude.”
Agencies and investigators must remain impartial in their decision-making, from the beginning of the case until it is cleared through the courts. Any impartiality could taint the case causing an innocent person to be jailed or a guilty person to be freed.
Personal Impairments —Inevitably, an investigator will be involved in a case that will become difficult to deal with due to personal reasons or impartiality.
These impairments may include the following:
- Prior relationships (whether they be personal, professional, or financial) that might influence the investigator’s level of inquiry; limit disclosure of details; or compromise any part of the investigation;
- Preconceived opinions of individuals, groups, and organizations that could bias the investigation;
- Biases, including those induced by political or social convictions that result from employment in, or loyalty to, a group or organization; and
- Financial interest in an individual, an entity, or a program being investigated.
External Impairments — Factors external to the investigative organization may restrict its ability to conduct an independent and objective investigation and issue reports of investigation. Such factors include:
- Interference in the assignment of cases or investigative personnel;
- Restriction on funds or other resources dedicated to the investigation or to investigative organizations;
- Influence on the extent and thoroughness of the investigative scope, the way in which the investigation is conducted, the individual(s) who should be interviewed, the evidence that should be obtained, and the content of the investigative report; and
- Denial of access to sources of information, including documents and records.
Organizational Impairments —An investigative organization’s independence can be affected by its position within the hierarchical structure of the agency. To help achieve maximum independence, the investigative function should be positioned outside the staff or reporting line of the unit or employees under investigation.
Investigations of agency personnel should always reflect a special sensitivity to this issue of impartiality.
C. DUE PROFESSIONAL CARE
The third general standard for investigative organizations is:
Due professional care must be used in conducting investigations and in preparing related reports.
This standard requires a constant effort to achieve quality and professional performance. It does not imply infallibility or absolute assurances that an investigation will reveal the truth of a matter.
Thoroughness —All investigations must be conducted in a careful and complete manner, and reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that pertinent issues are sufficiently resolved and to ensure that all appropriate criminal, civil, contractual, or administrative remedies are considered.
Legal Requirements —Investigations should be conducted in accordance with
- all applicable laws, regulations, and agency policy;
- guidelines from the prosecuting authorities;
- due respect for the rights and privacy of those involved.
Appropriate Techniques —Specific methods and techniques used should be appropriate for the facts and conditions that surround each investigation.
Impartiality —All investigations must be conducted in an upright and unbiased way, to decide the facts in a steadfast manner.
Objectivity —Evidence must be collected and reported in an unbiased and independent manner in an effort to determine the validity of a legal accusation. This includes inculpatory and exculpatory information.