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What are the differences between Private Investigators and Police Detectives?

Updated: Jan 10

A common question among people determining whether they should hire a Private Investigator (PI) is, "What makes them different from the police?" "Can they do the same things cops can?" " How do I know if I need to hire a Private Investigator?" While at a glance it may seem like both kinds of investigators do similar jobs and sometimes that is true, there are a handful of significant differences in the types of cases each kind of detective takes on and the methods they use to solve those cases.


There are times when a Private Investigator works alongside the police in criminal cases, but typically Private Investigators work on civil cases while police detectives work exclusively on criminal cases. There are exceptions to everything but this is generally the main difference.


Police detectives are law enforcement officers and are employees of the local government, state, or federal government. This usually means they can only dedicate time to serious crimes and have very little time for anything else. This is where private investigators come in. Police detectives also have the authority to enforce the law, make arrests, and detain suspects.


There are quite a few similarities between police investigators and private investigators the main difference is that police investigators dedicate their time to serious criminal matters while private investigators can take on a wide range of cases and are not employees of any level of government. Our Roanoke Private Investigators occasionally work with the police but generally police activity is not necessary.



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