Misconduct – Avoid Crossing That Line!

Posted on July 7, 2015 by Dean Benard

Investigators-even if they understand the line between appropriate conduct and misconduct and would never cross it-can still be accused of misconduct, such as coercion, threats, and intimidation to obtain information. To protect themselves from such accusations, investigators should record their interviews, as long as their client doesn’t object. However, recording is a two-way street. Investigators, especially those with less experience, must be careful about how they proceed. Asking a question that should not be asked or asking a question in a way that is inappropriate could actually bring on, rather than prevent, accusations of misconduct.

Investigators must also be careful when a subject asks questions such as ‘What is the likely outcome of all this?” or “Am I going to lose my license?” or “Am I in big trouble here?” An investigator should never try to predict an outcome or make promises of any kind. The answers to the questions are unknown. An investigator cannot know if more evidence will come to light and what effect that evidence may have on the outcome of the case. Additional evidence can turn a relatively minor matter into a very serious case. No good can come of an investigator trying to predict the outcome of a case or promising any interviewee anything. Either interviewees cooperate and provide pertinent information or they do not.

All investigators should establish some standard responses to questions they hear frequently. Then, if a lawyer asks about their response, they can repeat exactly what they said and tell the lawyer they say the same thing every time because they often hear the same question. Using a consistent approach demonstrates that an investigator has a  certain methodology, which indicates a certain credibility.

Finally, when investigators are uncertain about how to proceed, they should seek advice and get help. They should talk to legal counsel, other investigators, supervisors, or whoever can be a mentor or guide. Investigators-even if they understand the line between appropriate conduct and misconduct and would never cross it-can still be accused of misconduct, such as coercion, threats, and intimidation to obtain information. To protect themselves from such accusations, investigators should record their interviews, as long as their client doesn’t object. However, recording is a two-way street. Investigators, especially those with less experience, must be careful about how they proceed. Asking a question that should not be asked or asking a question in a way that is inappropriate could actually bring on, rather than prevent, accusations of misconduct.

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