Private Investigator Ethics

INVESTIGATIVE ETHICS
By: Rory J. McMahon, CLI
The Grafton Group

Outlined below are the major areas of concerns for an investigator to conduct business with honesty, legality, integrity, and ethics. Practice of these tenets will avoid conduct detrimental to the profession and to an agency or individuals’ reputations. Additionally, individuals and agencies should also adhere to all applicable standards and practices common to the general business community.

Ethical Priority
A private investigator must observe and adhere to the principles of honesty, goodwill, accuracy, discretion and integrity. He must be faithful, diligent, and honorable in carrying out assignments and the discharge of his professional responsibilities.

Confidentiality & Privacy
The purpose of confidentiality is to safeguard privileged communication and information that is obtained in the course of business. Disclosure of information is restricted to what is necessary, relevant, and verifiable with respect to the client's right to privacy. An investigator must not disclose, relate, or betray in any fashion that trust of confidence placed in them by the client, employer or associate, without their consent. In accepting instructions from clients, an investigator guarantees and assures confidentiality, and to protect and promote the interests of his clients.

When a third party is involved, the key to confidentiality, when considering personal or confidential information, is to make certain that the client is notified. To further a truthful and legitimate manner of operation, respect, protect and promote the rights of clients. Refrain from divulging confidential information to newspapers, publications, or other media for the protection of clients and to prevent interference in the administration of justice or a fair trial in the courts.

A client’s confidence must also be preserved beyond the term of employment. The disclosure or use of the confidences for the private advantage of the investigator or his employees, or to the disadvantage of the client, without his knowledge or consent, even though there may be other available sources of information, would be a breach of confidentiality. Professional files, reports and records, should be maintained under conditions of security, with provisions made for their destruction when appropriate.

Truth
The obligation of commitment to the client's interest is primary, but it does not eliminate the obligation to determine the facts and render honest, unbiased reports. Investigators are dedicated to the search for truth and the furtherance of their employers' or clients' interests. The search for that truth makes possible the establishment of ideals of fairness and justice for the benefit of the client in every case. The intention of every investigator is to treat honestly, justly and courteously all with whom they come into contact.

Keep Informed
Investigators have an obligation to maintain technical competency at such a level that the client receives the highest quality of services that the investigators’ discipline is capable of offering. It is important to keep informed on developments and changes in matters such as law, proposed legislation, public policies, forensic or technical advances and techniques that affect the profession. Local, state and federal levels of information must be current to be able to offer an informed opinion and advise clients properly in their area of expertise and the feasibility of proposed assignments.

Rory J. McMahon, CLI, is the Vice President of The Grafton Group, and is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is the author of several books, including Fraud Investigation: How to Conduct White Collar Crime and Financial Fraud Investigations; and Practical Handbook for Professional Investigators, Third Edition published in July 2013 by CRC Press.

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