Are you an experienced investigator? Help me be great at my job.
January 15, 2013 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I am seeking professional advice from experienced investigators working on internal investigations in institutional contexts - what can I read, do, practice, etc. to be effective and successful at my new job?

I recently got a job as an internal investigator for my big city's government. I will be working with a group of people responsible for controlling and investigating employee misconduct in a uniformed services department. (Sorry to be vague on purpose, but confidentiality etc.)

I have a legal training and some limited work experience in this area, so I'm not flying blind; but I'd like to hear from people who are working in similar roles & are experienced. Private investigators' input is helpful, but ideally I want to hear from people doing investigations inside big institutions such as schools, jails, government agencies, or large companies. Please suggest books I could read, things I should learn, particular training I should try to obtain on the job, or identify some great role models in this field. Tell me about lessons you wish you had known when you started out doing this work. Also helpful: identify the habits, skills or qualities that make a great investigator.

I am pretty excited about this job and I want to be as well prepared as possible. My apologies if this is a duplicate question - I did some searching on here but I didn't find any similar questions to read. Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by zdravo to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have always been an "external" investigator, and my present job does not involve a lot of this. That said, I have more than a bit of experience in the field.

First and most importantly, you need to know what the law states and what ethics dictate. Respectively, you need Ben Gilead and the SCIP code of ethics. These, at a very minimum will keep you out of trouble even though they are not directly applicable to your field.

Next you have to work on technique, including most importantly elicitation technique. You can also learn this from IDI/Focus group folks. Memail me if you feel you need more direct training on this.

But mostly it's about leaning to trust your gut then putting together a set of falsifiable theses. In other words, "I suspect X to be the case based on my gut (which is probably right) but let's figure out all the ways that could be wrong first."
posted by digitalprimate at 12:30 PM on January 15, 2013

I do kind of similar work and the best piece of advice I ever got was to 'always go back to the source documents' when making judgements about whether something is OK or not. It's easy to get complacent about your knowledge of what the (in your case, I guess) legislation or employment policy says, to the extent that you can mis-remember what the exact requirements are. By sticking to what the policy etc actually says (as opposed to what everyone thinks it says) will go a long way towards your work being consistent and fair, not to mention making your decisions/recommendations defensible should they be challenged.

Overall, one of the most important qualities for this kind of work is absolute confidentiality. This would be even more important where you are investigating a group of people who are all likely to have various networks such that any snippet of information you let slip will spread and grow very quickly. Things that may seem innocuous to you can be a big deal to others. Don't ever mention or even hint to anyone that a person is being investigated.
posted by dg at 7:09 PM on January 15, 2013

Coming from a labor relations point of view, I suggest an early introduction to stewards and business reps. A sit down over coffee or cookies will pay big dividends later. Also meet the supervisory level folks who'll you will be dealing with, introduce yourself, leave a card, make a grand impression.
posted by KneeDeep at 8:06 PM on January 15, 2013

One of the magazines that comes across my desk at work is Internal Auditor, the magazine of the Institute of Internal Auditors. Its focus is on audits and audit/compliance issues, but includes information and advice that would seem to be relevant to anyone conducting internal investigations.
posted by Lexica at 12:36 PM on January 16, 2013

Thanks for your advice, folks.
posted by zdravo at 9:36 AM on January 19, 2013

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