In the last few days, a dear colleague of mine, the owner of a detective agency, has told me in advance that we private investigators will finally be equipped with badges. This does not thrill me, because in our job the badge has always been a counterproductive vanity, born of envy for the police badge.
When, at the beginning of my career, I worked with some detective agencies in Milan, I saw colleagues displaying their private detective badges as if they were police badges, and being prosecuted for their reckless behavior.
I have never issued badges to my detectives: I give them a sheet of paper (a copy of the communication of the Prefecture) which, jokingly, I say they can wave like a white flag to escape friendly fire in the event of overly excited police interventions.
I have been teaching my trainee investigators for decades to use their heads more than their badges, because the badge is divisive, while the right approach to people allows one to discover unthinkable things. I even learnt recently (moving me to tears) that some of my former students from the Octopus detective agency in Bergamo, who later joined the Judiciary Police, still practice the trick I taught them of the “son’s plastic badge”; in practice if you really have to show your ‘shield’, you pretend not to find it right away (in the style of Lt. Columbo, so to speak) and rummaging in your pockets you pop out a toy badge, which has ended up there who knows how, which brings a smile to everyone’s face, defusing the situation and putting ‘the sources’ at ease.
In most cases of interviews to people already informed of the facts, presenting oneself as a private investigator is counterproductive because it unsettles the interviewees; the private detective in the imagination of many is synonymous of violation of privacy and trouble. I have taught the detectives in my detective agency Octopus, except in the cases established in the Criminal Procedure, to always introduce themselves as ‘consultants’, ‘researchers’, ‘informants’. “family friends” or any other figure, avoiding as much as possible to evoke the figure of the private snoop or cop.
When dealing with convicted criminals, the private investigator‘s badge is hilarious, because it represents no power of arrest and interrogation.
The private investigator‘s badge, whether a detective agency owner or collaborator, would make sense if it confers certain useful powers to carry out one’s duties to the best of one’s ability, such as consulting certain confidential files or avoiding a fine if one has committed an offence during a stakeout, otherwise it is yet another bureaucratic nuisance to which our category will be forced to submit.