Industry trainer Richard James makes the case that given the need for continuous improvement, education and training is an investment in the future pointing out that “if we always do what we’ve always done, then we will always get what we’ve always got!”
An article written by a freelance journalist after attending a ride along with a private investigator was critical of the process of obtaining an investigator’s license and how easy it was to get the training certificate required by the Victorian Police’s Licensing and Regulatory Division (LRD) for the grant of a license. The journalist included an observation along the lines of “with some RTO’s you just need to turn up to pass”.
For over twenty-five years, I’ve been involved in investigations. My experience has been gained from fourteen years’ service as a Detective Sergeant in South Wales, UK and then eleven years as a surveillance operative and Team Leader in the public sector in government investigations across different states in Australia. I have provided investigative training in Europe and now continue to teach in Australia and the Middle East.
I made the jump almost three years ago to the private sector setting up my business and have found that most PIs I have encountered are extremely motivated, competent, knowledgeable and work with integrity. I’m aware that many of those PIs are becoming increasingly frustrated by the restrictions imposed upon them as a result of the negative media and the fear some clients now have about using PIs.
The negativity and poor perceptions about investigators and their activities is an issue which cannot be addressed and changed overnight. In my view, to change the perceptions requires an investment in education and training – not only for the investigators coming into the industry but also for those responsible with tasking the investigators.
they turn over and not the quality of the training. However, I strongly disagree that this applies in all training situations as based upon my experiences, this is most definitely not the case with any reputable RTOs offering the competency based qualifications.
Since moving to the private sector I have been a contracted trainer and assessor with International Security Training Academy (ISTA) in Melbourne. I have first-hand knowledge of the requirements to pass the course and have been surprised not so much by what was taught but by the content required and authorised by LRD to be taught.
When I started teaching the course it was 22 days in length. My opinion was sought to establish if the course could be reduced and made shorter because other RTOs advertised shorter and even online courses for the same qualification. My response was the course in good conscience couldn’t be shortened.
In responding I explained “we are training students who are expected to hit the ground running and work as a PI after 22 days of classroom theory and a number of practical assessments. The surveillance training I received on entering this field took four weeks. The interviewing and statements taking training I underwent could easily take into account another five to six weeks. This is only two modules out of the fifteen required to be taught to achieve the qualification.”
I was never asked again if I would shorten the course and in fact it was increased by a day. The 23 days for the course is still not long enough so instead of increasing the time of the training I include more teaching and learning based upon my real life experiences, to try and increase the knowledge and employability of my students.
To this end, I was recently involved in a negotiation with ISTA and Global Data to provide the students on my courses with access to Global’s Caspar portal. I expect this access will be invaluable to students as I can now include training in and show the benefits in the use of the database providing them with the experience of using the many functions of the portal in finding locations of persons of interest.
As the Caspar portal has been designed specifically with skip tracers and investigators in mind it was a natural and easy progression to include the use of this portal in the course. The search portal gives access to hundreds of millions of records (both historical and current data) all in one universal dataset which is easily searchable from a variety of parameters and variables even for a novice student.
Another unique initiative has been securing the assistance of Gerard O’Shea, a current practicing Barrister from Foley’s List Chambers. Gerard is also a qualified trainer and assessor and he comes along to put my students through a vigorous court room cross examination of their evidence at the conclusion of the course.
Students are then provided feedback not only from myself as an investigator but from Gerard from the perspective of a defence counsel. How many investigators in the field can say they have had that training opportunity and experience with the luxury of knowing there were no real consequences for messing up in the witness box!
It is my belief there is a need for additional training for investigators after they graduate from the Certificate III Investigative Services training course and obtain their license. The difference in what they get taught and what they are expected to achieve in the real world is too large – regrettably I’ve seen students who show great potential, who obtain their license but fail to pick up any work and subsequently give up on the industry.
Currently my company working with ISTA is providing additional training opportunities, specifically courses dedicated to surveillance – the aim is that the additional skills obtained by the students will give the newly qualified investigators a better chance of finding work opportunities and then keeping the work coming in – as we all know in the investigation industry “you are only as good as your last assignment!”
I still have a concern though, that work for a newly qualified investigator is still very hard to come by. Companies want experience and trained skills at a level which students do not need to achieve in order to gain the Cert III qualification and which really they cannot get without actual experience on the job.
I encourage all newly qualified Investigators to offer their services for free for a time in order to allow potential employers a chance to see what they are like and what they can do. My final comment on this topic is, if as an employer, you get an offer from a newly qualified investigator, give them a chance, you may be surprised! ■
[Richard JAMES is the Director of RIVICA Investigations & Covert Solutions and the Principal instructor at ISTA for Investigative Services. He would welcome any feedback from members on what skills deficiencies they have experienced from new and current investigators and what additional training is believed to be needed to improve the industry. Richard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]