Can a Private Investigator Obtain a Police File?

A lot of people have this absurd notion that private investigators are capable of accessing whatever information is required of them, but the reality of this is a little different. Sure, some licensed private investigators in Sydney may be privy to certain public records that ordinary citizens may be unable to uncover. This is either due to belonging to exclusive research databases or superb research patience and skill. Either way, none of this equates the power of a private investigator with that of a police officer.

What does this mean? It means you can’t keep believing movies where every Private investigator knows a police officer, who’s willing to retrieve information from the police database for them.

Can Private Investigators Obtain Police Files?

Short answer? No. Long answer? Start by understanding that private investigators in Sydney are considered, for all intents and purposes, private citizens. If you, as a private citizen, are not allowed to view police files, then your private investigator also isn’t. While certain states may provide wider access to information for licensed private investigators, there’s still a limit as to what they can obtain.

With regards to police files, they’re considered inaccessible to the general public if information in the file affects ongoing investigations. In most cases, ordinary citizens, who know where to look, can access police records of closed cases, so it won’t exactly be a problem for a PI. It isn’t unheard of for law enforcement agents to discuss the general conclusions of a case, as long as it isn’t the entire file being narrated.

In some cases, Private investigators are former law enforcement agents, who’ve either retired or resigned for one reason or the other, so they may be familiar with the inner workings of law enforcement. Thus, they may be able to read between the lines about information being made known to the public.

In Sherlock Holmes, when he’s given privy to police crime scenes and information, it’s because of familiarity between law enforcement and his work. This sometimes happens in real life, albeit less often. For example, in the United States, in El Paso, a group of former law enforcement private investigators was able to uncover the activities of a serial murder that had been unsolvable for a decade. It’s very likely these P.I had privy to police records while they were in active duty, and their former colleagues cooperated with them.

Other Information Restricted from PIs

Besides police files, PIs don’t have access to sensitive data of private citizens. These include bank or phone records. At most, PIs may be able to detect accounts registered to an individual, but they won’t be able to review the contents of the account. Same with phone records. They may be able to find a person’s phone number, but they can’t listen in on phone calls without the consent of one party or obtain the browsing history of any individual. Only with a court order can such information be obtained. And because private investigators in Sydney aren’t the government, there’s virtually no chance of that happening.