What is an investigator?

An Investigator is an individual who is a professional at examining and analyzing information to establish facts, resolve questions, or solve mysteries. This role includes gathering evidence, executing interviews, and using critical thinking to piece together a coherent narrative or find solutions.

Types of investigators

There are many types of investigators who specialize in various kinds of investigations, such as:

  • Criminal investigators

Often associated with law enforcement, these professionals investigate crimes by gathering evidence, questioning suspects and witnesses, and solving cases.

  • Private investigators

Private investigators are frequently hired by individuals to look into a variety of issues, including legal, financial, and personal matters. We sometimes refer to them as ‘private eyes.’

  • Scientific Investigators

Researchers in fields like medicine, biology, or physics engage in detailed research and experiments to explore and unravel scientific phenomena.

  • Corporate investigators

These specialists focus on business-related issues like fraud, compliance breaches, leaks, and intellectual property theft, focusing on both internal and external aspects.

Skills and qualities

These qualities and skills are essential for a good investigator:

  • Analytical skills

The ability to analyze and put together data to draw conclusions.

  • Attention to detail

Paramount in observing and recalling fine details, underlining the importance of excellent observation skills.

  • Communication skills

If you want people to tell you what happened or give you information, you will need their cooperation. How you communicate with them can determine whether they decide to help. Good communication skills are vital. You also need to report your findings to your client, boss, or as a witness in a court of law.

  • Persistence

A key trait for any effective investigator, persistence embodies the determination to diligently pursue leads and uncover truths, regardless of challenges or obstacles.

  • Discretion and ethics

Sensitive information often needs to be handled confidentially, and all actions must adhere to moral and legal standards.

Four images showing different types of investigators
Created by Market Business News using material from Bing.

Tools and methods

The following are some tools and methods investigators use:

  • Surveillance equipment

An investigator may use digital cameras, video recorders, audio recording devices, GPS tracking devices, binoculars, night vision equipment, computer software for data analysis, drones, counter-surveillance tools like bug detectors, mobile phones with secure apps, and covert (hidden) cameras.

  • Forensic tools

Forensic tools include fingerprint kits, DNA analysis equipment, digital forensics software, crime scene photography gear, and chemical analysis kits for substance identification. The term ‘forensic’ relates to the application of scientific methods to crime and legal investigations.

  • Research databases

Used for background checks and gathering and analyzing information.

  • Interview techniques

Essential for eliciting valuable information not only from witnesses and suspects but also from victims and informants.

Challenges faced by investigators

An investigator might face several challenges when carrying out an investigation, such as:

  • Complex cases

In some cases, investigations can be extremely complex and time-consuming.

  • Legal constraints

A good investigator works within the law, which means they often cannot take shortcuts or cut corners. This can sometimes make their work more challenging.

  • Ethical dilemmas

Investigators must continually balance the need for information with ethical considerations and adherence to privacy laws

  • Emotional strain

Investigators often encounter emotionally taxing situations, which can lead to stress and burnout, especially when dealing with sensitive or traumatic cases.

The future

Advancements in technology are significantly transforming the field of investigation. In solving complex cases, the incorporation of digital forensics, cyber investigation, and sophisticated data analysis tools are becoming increasingly crucial.

These technological developments are enhancing investigative capabilities, allowing for more efficient and accurate results.

Written by Nicolas Perez Diaz