Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I’m a big believer in Divine intervention. What I mean is that oftentimes we try to plan and calculate our important life decisions, but what usually happens it’s the chance encounter or the ‘lucky’ incident that dramatically affect our lives. Take my life, for instance. I became a Los Angeles police officer by what I think was divine intervention. I was still in the Marines and had returned from my overseas deployment. I was stationed at a large naval base on the east coast. I had decided to leave the Marine Corps and go into law enforcement. I was due to be separated from the Corps in one week. I was late for chow and took a shortcut to get to the mess hall. Just by chance I ran into my old battalion Sergeant Major who I had served with overseas. Neither of us had known the other had been stationed at this base. After I advised him I was getting out of the Marine Corps, he asked me what I was going to do. I told him I wanted to go into law enforcement, and I was going to apply to either Philadelphia PD or NYPD. I also mentioned that they, like most police departments on the East Coast, had a one year residency requirement. The Sergeant Major then asked me if I had ever thought about the Los Angeles Police Department. He might as well have asked me if I had thought about a police department on the moon. When I brought up the fact that not only did I not know anyone in Los Angeles, I thought I might have a tough time finding a job while I waited for the one year residency to kick in. He then floored me with the fact that not only did they not have a residency requirement; he had a high ranking contact on the department from his days when he had been stationed there on recruiting duty. One week later, I was an honorably discharged Marine and flying across the country to Los Angeles. I spent 22 years working as a police officer and later as a detective for the LAPD, and as they say, the rest is history.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
When I was a young homicide detective we had a case where a young woman had been strangled and her body was left in a vacant field. The body was naked except for her panties. An examination of those panties revealed some small plant-like material inside them. My partner and I took the material to a botany professor at a very prestigious university nearby. After examining the residue, he advised us it was pink heather. Additionally he told us it was a small plant that grows back east, not in southern California. He also said it was it was used for garnishment in floral displays. This really caught our attention. The victim’s boyfriend was employed at the time at a flower shop. Once we had this information we raced up to the flower shop and detained the boyfriend. We took him back to the station where he eventually confessed to the murder. The next day we got a call from the botany professor. He was extremely apologetic and advised us that he had been incorrect in his analysis. During the criminal trial of the boyfriend, the court ruled that the confession was admissible because the detectives were acting on the information they knew at the time, which was based on the expert botany professor’s analysis. Every time I go into a flower shop, I still think of that case and pink heather.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Most PI’s do a lot of vehicle surveillances, but there will usually come a time when you’ll be out of a car and have to follow a subject on foot. The first thing to keep in mind is to dress according to the neighborhood. It’s wise to carry an extra set of clothes in your vehicle in case where you’re going doesn’t fit with what you’re currently wearing. Try to wear comfortable walking shoes. I prefer black ones, because they can also pass for dress shoes if you have to go upscale. Wear neutral colored clothing. Don’t wear bright colors like red or orange that will make you stick out. I also like to have handy a dark colored baseball hats without a logo. You can put it on or take it off and it gives you a different look. When following someone on foot, the most important thing is to know how the subject looks from behind. Rarely will you be in front of him/her to see their face. The next important thing is to pay attention to the subject’s walking gait, because that’s what you’ll be keying on, especially in a crowd. Don’t be too close to the subject. Remember that you can only have to see a small portion of the subject and still successfully follow him. I once followed an individual who was carrying a black gym bag in his hand on a busy downtown street. At times all I could see was a portion of the bag, yet I was able to follow him successfully. Keep in mind that most people are oblivious to their surroundings and are totally unaware someone is following them.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
If you're ’re a newly licensed PI, and now you’re looking for clients. Of course you get nice business cards and letterhead done (Hint: Use good bonded paper and have it done by a professional printer). Start reading books and articles about running a small business. Read up on marketing and advertising. Join one of your state’s professional investigative associations. Start networking with experienced investigators. Most are only too willing to help out a new person in the field. Join the association’s List Serve. It’s an invaluable way to gain knowledge and also to ask questions about issues that com up in your work. When starting out and things are slow, try to gain sub-contract work from a reputable, experienced PI. Once you’ve established your work with them, ask them if they wouldn’t mind helping you learn the business end of the work. I was fortunate after I retired to have two PIs mentor me. One was flamboyant, colorful, larger than life, and the best business mind I know in this field. He is also a very under rated investigator. The other runs a large firm and has an extremely professional operation. Both were very generous of their time in teaching me the business end of private investigations. Lastly, have ethics in this business. When someone helps you as a mentor, don’t be a dog and then turn around and try to steal their clients.