A Private Detective, often called a P.I (Private Investigator), is a person who either works alone or for a company like Investigation Hotline that can be hired by individuals, groups, or non-government organizations to undertake investigative tasks and law services. Usually, their clients are lawyers who handle civil and criminal cases.
In Canada, Private detectives or investigators are licensed by their respective provincial-level entities like the Ministry of Safety and Correctional Services (MSCS) and the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General. In order for an individual to become a licensed private detective in Canada, they must be of legal age (which is 18 years old and above), does not have any criminal record, be a natural-born citizen of Canada, must be able to write and speak in English, must have an official government ID issued by the Canadian government, must have a degree related to criminal justice, be physically fit, and must pass the government approved private detective licensed course which consists of 50 – 100 hours of basic training that will test both the applicants physical and mental ability.
The most difficult part of gaining a private detective license is the licensure examination. It will test and determine if the applicant has understood the learning materials during the basic training course. This licensure examination consists of multiple-choice questions that will test the critical thinking ability of the applicant. The questions may vary from logical, number sequencing, and figure arrangement. Certain questions will test the applicant on how they can work under pressure or if they would crack under pressure. This is to ensure that the next batch of private detectives would be able to think clearly and gather information as efficiently and as quietly as possible in the field since they may be assigned to investigate a delicate case that requires discretion as well as efficiency. These are the objective of the licensure examination to properly filter the right applicants for the role of a private detective.
The physical examination will test the applicant’s overall physical strength. Testing includes trials like finishing an obstacle course that would enable them to escape certain situations in the field, such as sprinting, lifting, first aid, and basic hand-to-hand combat. Other parts of the course would test an applicant’s cognitive ability. This portion would include solving puzzles, showing an eye for the smallest details, and basic forensics.
Since many private detectives may find themselves in certain situations where they would have to rely more on their physical ability rather than their mental capabilities, some private detective companies offer courses that include basic handling of small weapons such as pistols and knives to teach private detectives how to defend themselves or incapacitate a perpetrator. Because private detectives may be involved in criminal cases that could jeopardize their lives, it is important that they know to defend themselves in such dangerous situations.
The Cost of A License
In addition to the exams, there is a cost to becoming a private detective. The basic required course usually costs between $75 -$500 depending on the company and instructor, the examination fee can cost $75, and the licensing fee is about $80. The application process can take up to 10 business days, and the release of the license can be in the form of a digital copy, while the hardcopy of the license may take up to 8 weeks.
Still, most of the private detectives that have been approved usually use their digital copy for verification purposes. After two years, a private detective license must be renewed, and it must be renewed at least 30 days before the expiration date so that the private detective can still legally work and accept clients.
There is an association of private detectives in Canada, the Council of Private Investigators of Ontario. It is a non-profit organization whose members consist of licensed private detectives and are ensured by the council’s laws, code of ethics, and privacy law.
Joining this private detective council would greatly boost the knowledge of new private detectives or better-named rookie detectives. This helps new private detectives learn what it’s like to work in the field without supervision and assistance. Having senior mentors in the industry greatly increases the chances of success for rookies.