Private Inquiry Agents: Ethical Challenges and Accountability

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Title Private Inquiry Agents: Ethical Challenges and Accountability
Author King, Michael; Prenzler, Timothy James
Journal Name Security Journal
Editor Bonnie Fisher, Martin Gill
Year Published 2003
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Perpetuity Press
Abstract This study examines ethical issues faced by private investigators and commercial agents, and the implications for industry regulation. Interviews were conducted with 40 agents, covering their experiences of ethical challenges, perceptions of the conduct of colleagues, and ideas regarding the best form of regulatory control. The results indicate that a marked evolution has occurred in the last 30 years away from 'personal work' and towards large-scale anti-fraud work. This has brought private agents into the commercial mainstream, and contributed to enhanced respectability and improved, client-driven standards of conduct. Nonetheless, private inquiry work continues to present intrinsic ethical risks through the traditional conflict between perceived just ends and unethical or illegal means, combined with extensive operational discretion and limits on client or government supervision. The main areas of risk concern threats to privacy through access to confidential information and through intrusions into personal space, deceptive practices, and intimidation. A significant finding of this study was that interviewees reported high levels of 'self-policing' in managing these risks. Nonetheless, the large majority also felt that the risks entailed in investigation work were of sufficient magnitude to justify greater control of the industry by government. Interviewees also claimed that opportunities for misconduct could be reduced, and that they would make a greater contribution to crime control, if governments legislated for a more productive balance between justifiable requests for information and the protection of privacy.
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
Publisher URI
Alternative URI
Volume 16
Issue Number 3
Edition 2003
Page from 7
Page to 17
ISSN 0955-1662
Date Accessioned 2004-03-17
Language en_AU
Research Centre ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security
Faculty Faculty of Arts
Subject PRE2009-Law Enforcement
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1

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