What Is An Investigative Plan And Why Do You Need One?

“While uncertainty increases friction, a good plan can deal with this ‘dark blanket’ (Sun Tzu, circa 500 BC), this ‘fog that clouds views and minds’ (Clausewitz, 1832)”  

I get this request almost weekly: “I need you to run out and get some pictures.” Is that really a good strategy? The potential client suspects something is going on with another party and thinks that a few “pics” will do the trick. Most of the time, domestic cases require extensive details and patterns of events to be considered good evidence.   My firm rarely runs out and takes a few pics. We are not on call at the behest of the client. But, what we do is establish a plan and get evidence confirming or denying a pattern of misbehavior. This is 100 times more beneficial to the client and their counsel than just a few pictures.   A strategy will provide a roadmap for the investigation and a quality investigator will create this for you.  

What is an investigative strategy?

If you read criminal justice or law books, you will see the investigative strategy definition in a variety of forms. The important thing is that investigative teams adopt a strategy and apply the strategy across cases. In my firm, we use the backwards or reverse planning  principle in establishing a plan. Reverse planning is used by anyone who is looking to achieve some goal and breaking down a mountain of tactics into bite sized pieces.   Some theorists say that reverse planning by investigators results in a biased investigation because detectives develop an idea about what happened before reviewing evidence. This is incorrect. A good strategy involves mid-point reviews so investigators can pivot to another theory based on the evidence.  

In this process, even though the path we will take to investigate may be unclear and unpredictable at first, the destination, the results we seek in our investigation, will always be the same and can be expressed in terms of results and their priorities.”Rod Gehl and Darryl Plecas  

Reverse planning will make the investigator establish a theory or multiple theories and then work backwards in his or her mind to see where to begin. Now, once evidence becomes clear, this path may pivot to a different theory. The key is to develop a strategy.  

Why is this important?

Establishing a goal in a domestic investigation is important. Is your goal to get the truth and move on with your life? The investigator will place this at the top of a list, then list the steps necessary to get to this goal. Is your goal to get a custody agreement amended? This lofty goal will require many steps to get to this point. But, a good investigative team will make every effort to get you there – if the evidence allows it.   Establishing a goal and a roadmap to get there is the most important step in any investigation. Often, clients come to me and do not really know what their goal is. This where the consultative side of private investigating comes in. Through a series of questions we will get the true goal out and then move on with the steps required to get there.   Developing a strategic plan makes the tactical part of the investigation fall into place. Once the strategic plan is written down, the team will then know what tools they will need, what types of surveillance to use, and what questions to ask to try and reach the client’s goal.

“Strategic Planning is the management process used to create a long-range plan of how to achieve an ideal end-state or a set of goals often called a vision. This long-range plan is called a Strategic Plan.” –Focused Momentum

Does The Strategic Plan Or Evidence Drive The Investigation?

The STAIR method of investigating (Situation, Tasks, Analysis, Investigation, Results) is used in criminal cases and should be applied in domestic cases. The typical private investigator tends to say “yes” to an investigation then run out, get some video, and then email the videos to the client and ask “what do you think?” This “quick money” attitude often leaves the client and attorney needing more information.   However, when an investigator develops a strategic plan, looking forward to desired outcomes, evidence is collected over a period of time. This evidence is presented in a way that makes it difficult for the opposition argue. Would you rather have a couple of pics that may not tell a story? Or, a group of videos and other evidence that tells a story of behavior? The first option leads to frustration. The second option significantly increases your odds of meeting your objectives.  

Bottom Line

Before hiring the first investigator you find to “go out and snap some pics”, outline what your strategic goal is for investigating a situation. If you are looking for future action in the courts, you need to hire an investigator that understands the desired outcome and prepares reports to help you and your attorney win.

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