PI Licensing

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By Rick Johnson

April 10, 2006


Bruce Harrelson
Director, Office of Policy & Research
Department of Regulatory Agencies
1560 Broadway, Suite 1540
Denver, CO 80202

Mr. Harrelson:

I was astonished to learn that there is opposition to the licensing proposal submitted by the Professional Private Investigators Association (PPIAC) to the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) for Sunset Review by some private investigators who simply don’t want to pay the cost of obtaining a license.

The costs of implementing and managing the licensing program certainly will be an issue of debate. We want the cost of a license to be as reasonable as possible, and we want the program to be self-supporting, but the price we will pay for the failure of this proposal is tremendous. Why would any private investigator object?

My first thought was that, if they can’t afford perhaps a maximum of $500 in order to be licensed for a two-year period, what are they doing in business in the first place? How are they able to stay in business in the first place?

My second thought was that many of these so-called private investigators likely are part-timers, people with full-time jobs elsewhere, who see the unregulated and unmonitored private investigative market in Colorado as “easy pickings” for extra income. That raises the question of whether the issue is cost or whether it really is experience and competence and even the limited scrutiny that Colorado licensing would bring.

My third thought was that these so-called private investigators have no idea that, if they carry the day, all investigators in Colorado, including themselves, will be slapped down with Federal privacy and security legislation that restricts and will further restrict our access to some of the most basic investigative tools we now depend upon… Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, motor vehicle records, and other information.

To the extent that private investigators nationally have resolved the problem so far, it has been by successfully urging Congressional sponsors of legislation to exempt private investigators who are licensed in the states in which they do business. In Colorado, we’ve successfully maintained access to Colorado motor vehicle records only through the good will of state authorities in the design and interpretation of the rules permitting access to such records. We can’t long depend on good will. And good will isn’t working with the many national privacy organizations that have targeted unlicensed Colorado investigators as some kind of wild west hooligans who are part of the privacy problem.

Colorado is surrounded by licensed private investigators in Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, and other states. If Colorado denies licensing, much of our business surely will go to those licensed investigators. They will have access to resources and information that will be denied to Colorado private investigators. The impact on our ability to serve our clients – individuals, attorney’s, businesses, insurance companies, and others – will be staggering.

Clearly, opposition to licensing on the basis of what a license would cost in dollars irrationally ignores what the failure to license private investigators would cost us, individually, our profession as a whole, and our clients.

If money is to be an issue, it ought to be how much we all stand to lose if licensing fails.


Rick Johnson

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