Integrity and Accountability to Clients

The client has invited you into his home and trusted you with access to the minutiae of his day-to-day life. He is virtually at the mercy of the team who is conducting the investigation, not only in terms of his privacy but also in respect to property damage and misappropriation. Every attempt should be made not to violate his trust in any way.

Case files should be locked and inaccessible to anyone but authorized team members. Confidentiality agreements should be reviewed before public relations work or media interviews. If case files are no longer needed, they should be shredded. Professionalism and objectivity in the course of an investigation refers to the following:

  • Careful record-keeping

  • A sense of responsibility to both the client and the team

  • Never fudging data or attempting to support bad data by suppressing evidence

  • Discarding any evidence that could be explained by natural means

  • Careful coordination of experiential and technical data

  • A brief list of rules of conduct should be reviewed as a reminder before the investigation. Make the language plain and unequivocal. Suit it to the needs of your team, and be sure they have all read and agreed to it before the investigation starts.

  • Do address the client by name in a respectful manner when introduced. Make eye contact. Shake hands.

  • Do listen to any special requests or concerns the client mentions.

  • Honor them.

  • Do maintain a pleasant, professional demeanor.

  • Do respect private property and the client's personal belongings.

  • Do tie back long hair.

  • Do bring along a signed form granting permission to investigate.

  • Don't smoke in the area being investigated.

  • Don't drink alcohol or use drugs before or during an investigation.

  • Don't wear perfume, cologne, or after-shave.

  • Don't be disrespectful in any way to the client or contradict her as she relates her experiences.

  • Don't interfere with personal belongings or open drawers in private areas of the home, such as bedrooms.

  • Don't comment about the condition of the premises, particularly if they are messy or in disrepair.

  • Don't remove anything from the site without express permission of the client.

  • Professional Deportment

    Unfortunately, it isn't possible to know what to expect from a new team member until she is field-tested. Members should be briefed on what is expected from them as far as their interactions with clients and the client's property.

    As guests in the client's home, they should conduct themselves as such. It isn't good procedure to flip though personal papers, read diaries, poke through drawers or medicine cabinets, or even to make personal comments about the appearance of the premises or clients, unless it has a direct bearing on something pertinent to the case.

    When Problems Arise

    If a new team member deliberately or inadvertently violates one of the rules, he should be taken aside and warned that he has committed an infraction of the rules and should be more aware of his actions. The warning should be handled in a low-key and sensitive way. If the team member argues or proves disruptive, he should be asked to leave the site and a review of his membership status should take place as soon as possible.

    When a veteran team member violates the rules, it can be more serious. As longtime members, these procedures should be ingrained, almost second nature. Again, the team leader should draw the member away from the investigation and talk with her to discover why the infraction occurred. Sometimes, there will be a good reason, but the team member may have grown sloppy in her approach and needs to have a refresher course in proper protocols.

    If the team leader cannot break away from the premises to follow up, he should ask the person to leave the site until they can have a talk about what has transpired. Never argue in front of the client and try not to embarrass or humiliate the team member in front of his or her peers.

    The Chinese believed that these figures, called Foo Dogs, were guardian spirits who could keep evil from entering a doorway. They were often placed at the front entrances of temples and palaces.

    Photo copyright Melissa Martin Ellis, 2007.

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