Investigation Reports for Real Decision Makers

BRIAN

DeANTONIO

CEO & Lead Design

Private investigators know investigation reports are and will always be unavoidable. Proper report preparation is always challenging and sometimes daunting. Your investigation report becomes your final work product and represent an essential task amongst investigators. It also represents a time sapping series of tasks that software can and should address.

Wireframing the Investigation Report

When we started building the document generator in CaseWatch, we had to define what a great investigation report looked like. Wireframing is the best way to produce the appearance of a block layout, then we fill in the blanks.

An investigation report should address the objective, an investigation summary, and finally, the details of the investigation. Custom reports can contain any number of section headers. In fact, a background report can collect data from 25 dissimilar sources, such as, criminal, civil, and public records searches.

CaseWatch uses journal entries to document each case throughout the entirety of the investigation. As the assignment progresses, CaseWatch users rely on the case journal to document any findings. No matter what, feel confident that once complete, our document generation module makes investigation report generation a cinch!

"CaseWatch uses online journal entries to fill in the case notes, report entries, and other important case related data."

Investigation Report, Absolute Necessities

Various Levels of the Same Situation

How would you describe an area canvass where you learned the subject’s work schedule? Here are a few different options:

  • Through investigative means, it was revealed the subject works every Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • During a conversation with a neighbor, it was revealed the subject works every Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Investigator Smith approached the house located at 120 Main Street. A white female subject answered the door. It was revealed the subject works every Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

The truth is imperative as a base of information to which you can start. Better explained, each statement above is the absolute truth with less and less ‘supporting’ information.

A businesses tolerance for which method will dictate the final delivery. You can always answer questions to provide more detail, or more truth to the statement; however, only when necessary.

Crafting the Summary in Investigation Reports

The investigation summary is a broad excerpt of the actual investigative process and the results the process uncovered. It focuses on the salient results or the ‘what happened’.

The reader may become curious about the summary and want to learn more. The summary should be a concise ‘overview’ of the investigation from beginning to end.

A summary doesn’t need everything found in the investigation report. But it shouldn’t contain information that isn’t in the details already.

When preparing investigation reports, write the investigation details first, then copy the details into a big summary. From there, cut back on the irrelevant ‘process’ paragraphs and focus on the relevant facts. Here is an example:

"On Tuesday, May 23, 2018, Investigator Matthews arrived at the subject’s place of employment, The Warehouse Place located at 120 Main Street in Anytown, MA 02134. Upon arrival, the investigator secured statements from Michael Williams, a witness, and Timothy Adams, the subject of this investigation. Michael corroborated the subject’s story. He stated the subject slipped on oil coming from the printing machine. The investigator also secured the subject’s statement. His statement is consistent with the First Report of Injury (Attached)."

The summary isn’t a place for fluff or hearsay, focus on the “R’s”, results, and recommendations. Focus on not just the facts, but key facts and leave the rest.

The Investigation Details

The investigation details are just that, details. Never embellish but always be as descriptive as you can be about everything.

I’ve seen detailed reports that were a few pages and others that were a few hundred. In most cases, the shorter, more professionally written reports contained the most relevant data. A few hundred pages of writing is impressive but if they don’t help tell the story, weed through it.

Sections within the details could be measurements, interviews, photography, or a video narrative. Use good judgement and make sure you relay the data as detailed as possible. Always portray the subject in the “best” light, it makes defending the report that much easier.

The Conclusion

The conclusion is a narrowly tailored investigation summary. It’s the results of the investigation from the perspective of the client's request.

Let’s say the objective is to determine an active extramarital affair. The conclusion is either “yes and who” or “no”. Written more appropriately:

  • We found the subject is engaged in an extramarital affair with Betty Sue.

or,

  • Our investigation was unable to confirm the existence of an extramarital affair.

This is the bare minimum for a conclusion, but remember, the conclusion is the answer. The answer is, if it needs to be to satisfy the client’s curiosity, within the law.

Recommendations in the Investigation Reports

The concluding section is the ‘next steps or professional recommendations. As a professional, you’re the best suited to suggest a follow up plan of action – if one is required.

Keep the recommendation to a concise, tailored game plan your client understands. This follow up can be a steady source revenue if effectively managed.

Continuity and Transparency

Software helps agencies maintain industry-specific workflows, while maintaining process continuity. Data saved is, well, saved data. Case management software brings data to life with journal entries, expenses, and attachments.

Data can trigger a directional change of an investigation. Daily updates and unfettered case visibility will identify any anomalies.

If two investigators work a file and don’t see each other’s work, the results could be disastrous. Investigation software provides layers of visibility in the cloud, helping avoid these pitfalls.

A solid case management platform will blend the data between agents as the case matures. This not only identifies issues and anomalies, but it makes decision making bullet proof because you always have an excellent view of ALL the facts.

Accuracy: A Zero Tolerance Policy

The most important variable when preparing an investigation report is accuracy. Everything else is fixable, but not accuracy.

Accuracy and integrity go together. If your results are inaccurate, your integrity is in question. An investigation report needs to completely address aim, scope, process, results, and recommendation.

Keeping up, with accuracy, can become too much for the best investigators and agencies. The best investigators and agencies maintain the best processes. Their processes allow them to provide quality investigative results each time without compromise.

Can You Withstand a Court Challenge?

Investigations take place based on an “underlying issue”. If that issue involves a legal matter, your final report will most certainly find its way into a court of law. Good attorneys tear apart overzealous investigation reports. It’s your job to make sure that can’t happen.

A well-prepared investigative report should be well received in any court. As a best practice, write every investigation report as if the case is going to court. If it never goes to court, you still have solid report you can be proud of. If it goes to court, you’re ready.

Keep in mind, when you first meet someone, your initial impression is the most important. Having a repeatable process when preparing reports creates continuity and confidence. They aren’t confident in you Per Se, but they respect and become confident in your process. So as far as reports goes, the value is in the process not the product.

Sloppy processes or a race to get paid for a case, can lead to a “tainted investigation”. Not intentionally. This can have a disastrous effect on the facts and the resulting decisions born as a result.

Value in the Process

Keep in mind, when you first meet someone, your initial impression is the most important. Having a repeatable process when preparing reports creates continuity and confidence. They aren’t confident in you Per Se, but they respect and become confident in your process. So as far as reports goes, the value is in the process not the product.

Sloppy processes or a race to get paid for a case, can lead to a “tainted investigation”. Not intentionally. This can have a disastrous effect on the facts and the resulting decisions born as a result.

Investigation Report Generation Software

As private investigation case management software advances so has automatic report generation. It’s important to find the software that’s right for you and your business. Customization is important as is control over the template, color, and titles.

CaseWatch is a complete case management solution. Most report generation software is part of a case management system like CaseWatch. The reason, these systems collect data that’s required to populate the investigation report.

Some investigation management software maintains excellent report generators. We developed an easy to use one-click document generator to work with the data you add to your CaseWatch account.

Conclusion

Your clients want a detailed report for the money they’re paying. It’s tedious but important.

Building a business? Continuity in your software translates to continuity in your process.

The process will bring results in the long term. Focus on results and report writing will become a valued tool in your investigations.

Investigation reports can vary. If you’re looking for ideas for different variations, Google search ‘investigation reports sample’, ‘investigation report example’, or ‘investigation report template’. You will find quite a bit of information and resources.


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