HOW TO BECOME A CALIFORNIA PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
Opinion Editorial – Scroll Down for BSIS Requirements
By San Francisco Bay Area Regional Manager, Miss
Working as a successful private
investigator in California who can close cases to a client’s satisfaction is not
a matter of just knowing how to investigate, but knowing how to investigate is
where it starts.
I have seen reality television shows
about a wide variety of subjects and with many interesting people being
profiled. Sometimes they look really
cool and other times not. Well, for a
while there it seemed like every single character on most reality TV shows were made
to look like or behaved like someone I would not hire as a new investigator for
In any case, I watched “Cops,” bounty
hunting shows that came and went, and maybe one or two involving private
investigation firms. I hadn’t thought
about those shows much until acquiring an Administration of Justice Degree.
My travels and prior jobs exposed me to many
people and who work in many fields. I’ve
met bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, bouncers, people who work in “loss
prevention,” and most recently saw an ad for open positions with this private
I followed the instructions on the
virtual flyer, made myself available 24-7 to respond to the sudden interview
calls, rushed off for said interviews with different people in the
organization and began to wonder why it couldn’t all be done in one sit down
I finally met with the Firm’s owner who
surprised me at what I thought was my hidden home when he called unexpectedly
for a meeting at a restaurant a couple of miles from where I live. He was waiting outside with one of the Firm’s
managers that I had met a week earlier. This
freaked me out a bit, but I quickly learned what all the “jumping through
hoops” was about.
The ability to “respond and not react”
to a “change in conditions” is a mindset that people who work in the private
sector private investigations field must accept if one is to be
successful. The owner apologized for showing up unexpectedly, but he was trying to make a point. He
also showed up because I wasn’t being considered for a field investigators
position but, rather, I was being considered for a managerial position.
My background included more than just a
degree in theories, but I am also practiced and experienced in a variety of
jobs that taught me how to respond to a “change in conditions” that one just
can’t get with the more common types of education and various jobs.
We all drove separately to the
restaurant, and learned more.
I was being tested the whole time. I was being tested for two weeks and didn't realize it.
If my home life was “out of balance”
then I could not have been so available and with little to no notice.
If I needed a few days to respond to
anything then the work I will be doing isn’t for me.
If I gave up out of frustration then the
work I will be doing isn’t for me.
If I was thinking of going into other
fields then I’d be wasting the Firm’s time.
So I completed the training programs,
passed the physical agility and written tests on the Firm’s Policies and
Procedures, labor law, criminal law, rules of evidence, and wrapped up with
learning basic and advanced private investigations tradecraft.
The kicker in this story is that the
owner was very clear. He said to me,
“Stay with the Firm for three years, and I will gladly sign you off to start
your own private investigations firm.”
So what are the requirements to start
one’s own private investigations firm?
“First, a ‘qualified manager’ of a
private investigations firm ‘PI’ cannot legally just ‘sign off’ on someone’s
hours who did not meet the required experience WHILE ON THE PAYROLL. This opportunity can only be done with
EMPLOYEES who are ON THE PAYROLL; hence, after meeting the below requirements, the employee
will then be free to go solo.
The second and most important thing to consider
before even thinking of starting a PI firm is this: one Must Know How to Run a
Small Business—the below listed requirements don’t mention that most PI firms
don’t make it very long with folks who have no experience in the private
~ Quote by this Firm’s Owner.
While it is true that my degree chops some time off, I shall work to complete the three years as promised and be ready to "respond" to any "change in conditions."
From the California Department of Consumer Affairs
Bureau of Security and Investigative Services Website
“A private investigator is an individual
who amongst other duties (1) investigates crimes, (2) investigates the
identity, business, occupation, character, etc., of a person, (3) investigates
the location of lost or stolen property, (4) investigates the cause of fires,
losses, accidents, damage or injury, or (5) secures evidence for use in court.
Private investigators may protect persons only if such services are incidental
to an investigation; they may not protect property. An individual, partnership,
or corporation licensed as a private investigator may employ a qualified
manager to manage the business on a day-to-day basis. To be eligible to apply
for licensure as a private investigator/qualified manager, you must meet the
1. Be 18 or older.
2. Undergo a criminal history background
check through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI).
3. Have at least three years (2,000 hours
each year, totaling 6,000 hours) of compensated experience in investigative
4. have a law degree or completed a four
year course in police science plus two years (4,000 hours) of experience; or
5. have an associate's degree in police
science, criminal law, or justice and 2 ½ years (5,000 hours) of experience.
Experience must be certified by your
employer and have been received while you were employed as a sworn law
enforcement officer, military police officer, insurance adjuster, employee of a
licensed PI or licensed repossessor, arson investigator for a public fire
suppression agency, or an investigator for the public defender's office.
(Work as a process server, public
records researcher, custodial attendant for a law enforcement agency, bailiff,
agent who collects debts in writing or by telephone after the debtor has been
located, or person who repossesses property after it has been located is not
considered qualifying experience.)
Pass a two-hour multiple-choice
examination covering laws and regulations, terminology, civil and criminal
liability, evidence handling, undercover investigations and surveillance. A
copy of the Private Investigator Act will be sent to you; and
Upon notification that you have passed
the examination, you must submit a licensing fee of $175 to the Bureau of
Security and Investigative Services, P.O. Box 989002, West Sacramento, CA