The road to becoming a Private Eye
There are so many different paths one can take that leads to a career in investigations. Private colleges and career schools are the largest providers in PI certificate programs, or one can be from the school of hard knocks. No doubt that experience is the best teacher when it comes to mastering surveillance fundamentals and how to maintain a low profile during a stakeout. For me, that’s the route I took, and I was trained by the best in the field. Yeah one may say, no amount of experience alone is going to teach you about state and federal laws, protocols for admitting evidence to the courts, and evidence collection methods that ensure your clients are getting accurate and timely intelligence. That’s true, but one can learn that as they go, and it all depends on the career one wants in the field. I wanted to excel in surveillance, report writing, skip tracing, the art of the chase and be involved in workers comp. That’s something that can’t be taught in school and what I’ve experienced, the ones that graduate from a PI school are a little rough around the edges.
It all started when one of my good lawyer friends said I’d be great at process serving. I was like, process serving what? You see, it’s the process of “serving” legal documents to a defendant or person involved in a court case. I thought that was kind of cool, and I love being sneaky. One needs a license for being a server and was hired by a guy with real nice hair by the name of Judd, on the grounds I’d pass the test. I was so good at being a process server, that I had to take the test twice! So, I finally pass and had no idea what I was going to get into. He had lots of difficult serves, ones where the person knew they were getting sued and would hide out. Judd was the king of being sneaky and taught me a lot of fun tricks. I had to do garbage dives to obtain critical information, then search through the bags to find addresses, I’d find love notes, key documents and the nastiest things you could imagine. But god forbid, only grab the garbage if the can is curbside, never run onto the property to pull a garbage bag or you’ll see Judd punch his hand through shelf at a grocery. It’s not trespassing to do a dumpster dive if the garbage can is curbside, never go onto the property.
One of my best serves had to be chasing down a F1 car driver on the freeway in the middle of rush hour traffic. He was avoiding service; he had many residence around the world and we just got lucky that he was home in Scottsdale one day. I landed him at restaurant but didn’t know which one. His wife left the passenger door open (strange, right?), Judd came down and announced that there was open car door, no one answered and that narrowed it down to a fine Italian restaurant next store. He walked by, saw him in the window and entered. He played the card of an old high school friend and yelled TOMMY! He turned, didn’t acknowledge but his son kept saying, Daddy Daddy, he’s saying your name. He knew the gig was up and Judd asked, where do you want me to set the papers? Tommy said, here and Judd tossed it in the bread basket. You’ve been served!
Another classic was, I dressed in running gear, pretended that I tripped and fell outside the subject’s residence, made a huge scene and the subject came out. At that point, I stated who I was and served him the papers. To this day, I don’t know how I didn’t get my ass kicked on site.
Judd was also a PI, being a PI leads to knowing many PI’s in the field and a gig opened up. I had to get licensed though, I was able to piggy back off the agency license and obtain my license that way. For the reason, I didn’t have at least three years full-time investigative work to get my own license, as AZ DPS requires. That’s one of the avenues one can take and this was basically my schooling. Another PI needed a young buck to infiltrate a global food distributor, for the reason the night shift manager was rumored to be lying to his employees and also see if any drugs or stealing of goods were going on. I was young and took the reins on this one. The job required driving a pallet jack, stacking boxes on pallets, wrapping the towers and unloading them next to the trucks. Oh, and it was the graveyard shift too and I had no experience either! What worked to my advantage was I jumped off the pallet jack one night to grab a box, landed on the piece of cardboard that was covering BBQ sauce and I pulled a Charlie Brown. I cracked my tailbone, was put on light duty and got the nickname “BBQ Sauce.” While being on light duty, I was able to grab Intel easier, listen to conversations between employees and be around the night shift manager more. The information I gained made the client very pleased and also ended my job a little quicker than expected.
From there, Judd knew another PI that needed a body for a surveillance gig that ran into 6:00 a.m. and it was a high security case. We were watching some tin foil hat lady that made threats to a hospital and needed to make sure she didn’t come close to the property. Also, to make sure she didn’t go buy a gun, go to a shooting range, etc. At this point, I thought all this was really cool! The investigator that relieved my shift, little did I know, he’d hire me and teach me the majority of everything I know for this profession. But when I first saw him, he rolled up in a BMW, tinted(a must for a PI), wearing a bandanna, with gangster sunglasses on a “coke” fingernail. I first thought, who the hell was this guy? This guy was Jerry, he was Army infantry solider, a sniper and used all what he learned in the field to become one of the best PI’s out. It turned out he also worked at the same food distribution company I infiltrated, and I got the gig because he wasn’t available.
One day during our down time we got to talking about workers compensation surveillance, what all is involved and how it’s conducted. I had no clue that work comp was, but I was excited to learn and become his young Padawan. From that day on I’ve become one of the best investigator’s in the state when it comes to obtaining video, not getting burned and the art of the chase.