Whether you are an investigator on a police force, the FBI or work privately, you must develop several skills and qualities to become an effective investigator and solve your cases. During an investigation, you will gather information from physical evidence and witnesses and analyze the evidence to solve the crime or problem.
Communication and Interview Skills
Interviews are often the cornerstone of any investigation. Investigators must interview the client or victim, witnesses and suspects. The investigator must ask clear questions and extract as much detail as possible. In addition, the investigator must recognize discrepancies and gaps in any story and ask questions to clarify the information. The investigator must also be a good listener, including reading body language and recognizing when a witness may be lying or withholding information.
Investigators must be able to control their emotions. In many cases, the investigator may deal with issues that make her angry; however, expressing this anger can harm the case and cause witnesses to withhold information. In addition, the investigator must show empathy to victims and clients and create a safe environment for them to share important details.
Honesty and Ethics
Investigators must be honest, ethical and law abiding. If an investigator is caught lying or using unethical methods of investigation, he loses credibility and potentially his job. This is a problem if the case goes to court and may prevent the suspect from being convicted.
Technical Skills and Knowledge
Investigators often use technology to assist in their investigations. Equipment varies based on the type of investigation and the firm or agency the investigator is working for. It may include surveillance equipment and equipment to analyze evidence such as fingerprints.
Knowledge of the Law
Investigators must know the laws surrounding the case. For example, when looking into a corporation, an investigator may find the company is doing something ethically questionable, but not illegal. In addition, investigators must know what they are legally allowed to do in the course of their research. Otherwise, evidence they gather may not be admissible in court and the investigator may face legal prosecution.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
In order to piece together the evidence and witness statements obtained during an investigation, the investigator must be a good problem solver. In many cases, witness statements will be contradictory, so the investigator must use critical thinking and problem solving skills to figure out what really happened in a case. Critical thinking skills also allow the investigator to look past the obvious solutions and analyze evidence objectively.
Research skills are critical in many investigations. The investigator must often look into the background and activities of victims, witnesses and suspects. In addition, business-related cases often require research into the companies' policies, actions and financial history. Investigators must have the resources and ability to conduct relevant research.
Finally, effective investigators must be able to write clearly and concisely. Whether working for a law enforcement agency or private client, investigators must submit written reports and documentation of their investigation. These reports must be clear not only for the client, but for the attorneys and judges should the case make it to court.
- Police Research Series Paper 122: The Effective Detective, Identifying the Skills of an Effective SIO
- U.S. Department of Justice: Crime Scene Investigation
- CIO: How to Conduct an Effective Investigation
- Police Chief Magazine: Failures in Criminal Investigation
- International Foundation for Protection Officers: Investigative Interviewing: Strategies and Techniques
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