JEFFERSON CITY - Private investigators are asking Missouri lawmakers to license their profession.
"The time has come for Missouri to step into the 21st century and bring an unregulated profession into accountability," said Dwight McNiel, president of the Missouri Association of Private Investigators, at a recent hearing of a Senate committee considering the issue.
Missouri is currently one of eight states that does not license or regulate private investigators. Certain cities within Missouri, including Columbia, require investigators to obtain a license.
Some investigators argue that the absence of such regulation allows any person to conduct an investigation, whether properly trained or not.
"Do all practicing investigators in the state of Missouri know the difference between a legal surveillance and an illegal surveillance?," asked Chris Rey of Aabott Rey Detective Agency at a hearing of the Senate Governmental Committee. "I guarantee you the answer is no."
Tim Chancellor, owner and operator of Professional Investigative Services in Columbia told the committee that he is concerned about the "lack of competency...and consumer protection" since there is no current state regulation.
Chancellor said passage of the bill would "bring a degree of professionalism" into the investigative field.
Chancellor stated that people make "life-changing decisions" with the information provided to them by private investigators. Regulation would help ensure that investigators are trained to provide accurate information and held accountable to this information.
Licensed investigators would have their license "revoked, suspended or pulled altogether" if found guilty of consumer fraud, Chancellor added.
There was no testimony against the bill before the committee, which did not take any action on the proposal.