Life After Law Enforcement
Guidelines for Public Sector Investigators in Preparation for Private Sector Opportunity
By Christopher Gormley
First appeared in the Spring 2008 edition of SIU Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.
It is the hope of this author that the claim professional reading this article will somehow forward a copy to a neighbor, social contact, business contact, spouse, relative, or friend who is a police officer.
The advice I offer is for the law enforcement professional who may be in mid-career pondering a future or, like most of us former officers, may have suffered a career-ending injury. The claims professional should feel comfortable slipping a copy of this article on top of the stack of the officer's pending retirement papers, police reports, or as some people incorrectly believe, donut bag.
Prior to being hired as a member of a Special Investigation Unit, I served over 18 years as a sworn police officer in several agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area. During some of those tense times, I was actually a sworn-at police officer. After incurring a series of physical injuries, I was deemed to be disabled to such a degree to merit an industrial-injury retirement.
I was provided with a career counselor who suggested continuing in a career as an investigator. I was also provided a computer, clothing allowance and enough additional salary to sustain me until eventually becoming employed.
I knew at the time, and point out now, that I was fortunate to obtain the necessary training and experience while a police officer so as to be considered for employment within the private sector.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for the officer who spends his career in a patrol car doing what I know to be the most hazardous and critically necessary duty one can do.
It is ironic that because of this sense of duty and integrity, the officer often does not gain the necessary experience to be considered for employment in the civilian sector.
I would encourage any police officer to obtain as much training as possible through their respective agency and state training center. Never stop learning or honing your investigative skills.
The basic academy is always an excellent starter course, but each officer must make the effort to attend those "fine-tuning" courses available nationwide. Some of the best courses available are those addressing behavior analysis and interviewing/interrogation improvement skills.
The astute, in-service officer should also surround himself with industry experts by networking with investigative experts. The most widely recognized and respected group of sworn officers and civilian investigators working together is the International Association of Special Investigation Units. This umbrella organization is comprised of member chapters in every state of the union. The in-service officer can become a member of both the local and international chapter by filing an application and after review, be accepted for membership. Check the web site of www.IASIU.org for additional information. It is important to join this organization as only those members who are in law enforcement or are actually members of an insurance company special investigation unit can be members. Private investigators and those parties who render services to insurance companies are not allowed, by IASIU charter, to join the organization.
If there is not a local chapter near you, do not hesitate to contact IASIU headquarters at (410) 931-3332 for chapter information. I offer to be available to answer any questions the reader may have and would ask that you contact me via e-mail listed below. No question is dumb and it is never too late to ask.
One of the most critical decisions an in-service officer can make to advance his second career is choosing an investigative assignment not normally considered desirable or "sexy." The experience and education you can obtain by investigating child abuse, burglary, auto theft, or financial crimes often can be of more use to you than being assigned solely robbery or homicide cases.
In those agencies where there is limited chance of assignment to investigations, the patrol officer can increase his experience in many ways. Instead of just documenting a vehicle accident, auto thefts, or residential burglary, truly investigate the event. More civilian investigators will review your written report than you realize and the final product is a reflection of you as a professional.
Consider yourself a uniformed investigator. I understand the need for concise and timely action at scene investigations due to the staggering calls for service, but do not take shortcuts, which could cause you to fail to shine.
On many occasions, I have noted that the excellent patrol investigator will note observations not normally documented in a police report. On one specific case, the uniformed investigator noted the location and size of a cabinet where the small television stood. Six months later, the victim presented a loss for a large screen television on a 22" stand. That information in the police report was brought to the attention of the nervous victim, who then decided not to engage in this type of fraudulent activity.
I have also read reports of officer's observations at a scene of a "fender bender" where the first party is walking, talking, and not exhibiting any symptoms of injury until apparently remembering that she is injured. Document your observations without prejudice and you will increase your skill as an investigator.
When I was a police officer (and admittedly not a "uniformed investigator") it was always my understanding that in the event of a burglary or similar loss, the insurance company would investigate the value of the loss.
I believed it was my job as an officer was to identify and apprehend the perpetrator.
It has since been a revelation to me that the police officer is also the initial gatekeeper to reining in insurance fraud.
If the officer documents the loss event in a professional and effective manner, the victim may not even consider inflating the value of the stolen items or exaggerating the effects of the collision.
I am not suggesting you become an agent of the insurance industry. Rather, I recommend you keep in mind that insurance fraud is now estimated to have an impact of over $80 billion annually.
Any efforts by law enforcement to address this issue will also benefit all of the officer's community and his own wallet.
Many officers do not understand how insurance policies may work. Very few realize that if an insured provides a material misrepresentation during the submission of an insurance claim, the entire claim can possibly be denied. In addition, most states now have statutes making insurance fraud a crime.
Although the effective officer suspects insurance fraud may be occurring, he or she may not know what to do.
Your membership in the local chapter of the International Association of Special Investigation Units will allow you to review the facts of your investigation (absent identifying details) and obtain input from experts you can trust.
There are several on-line courses now available for the interested professional.
I had the opportunity to study the insurance industry by taking courses through the American Educational Institute. I learned about and become certified in Fraud Claims Law (FCLA), as well as Property Claims Law (PCLA).
After intensive study, I was able to obtain certification as a Senior Claims Law Associate (SCLA). Other on-line educational courses are available, as well as local organizations, which will provide you with a well-rounded education in this specialized industry.
Finally, in the event you are selected for a second career as an investigator for a Special Investigation Unit, remember several things that will help you transition from a professional law enforcement officer to an expert civilian investigator.
1. Make the transition from law enforcer to "prover of fact."
Your new job will be to identify "red flags" or issues in a claim file and address those issues. Upon completion of your unbiased investigation, the claim professional should be able to make a decision on how the claim should be adjusted. As in police work, it is just as important to exclude an innocent suspect as arrest the guilty one in insurance investigations.
In your new role, your duty to ensure the fair adjustment of the claim of the honest victim/insured is equal to stopping those who attempt insurance fraud.
2. Network, network, network.
Attend your local chapter meetings of IASIU and begin today taking courses to increase your investigative skills and knowledge of insurance claim investigations.
3. Become involved in your local chapter of the International Association of Special Investigation Units.
Attend the annual conference and training seminar conducted by IASIU. Consider pursuing designation of a "Certified Insurance Fraud Investigator" which is the recognized gold standard of certifications within the industry.
4. Improve your wardrobe.
On a personal note, the suit you may use for court and weddings should be kept for those purposes. Invest in casual dress shirts and pants. In my case, I recommend any slacks with the ability to "expand-a-waist" or "hide-a-roll."
I will address other areas of concerns in future issues, but I implore the reader to take this advice to heart and do what it takes to ensure "life after law enforcement."