Ask A Small Town Cop

Sep 10, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Public Protectors

by Detective Will Knight

Welcome to a new monthly column where small town, local cop and detective Will Knight answers some of your questions about how things really work in a small town police department. He is writing this under a pseudonym to protect his identity as he often works undercover, but he has worked as a police officer in small California towns for the past ten years. If you’d like to submit a question, simply email Will at with the subject line “Cop Question”.

We here at KRL thought this would be an especially fun column for mystery writers struggling with a small town setting and police work, but also mystery fans and just those who are interested in learning how small town police departments work!


This month we have a group of questions that are all connected:

Do cops actually work with private investigators on cases?
If so, do they like or dislike doing so? Why or why not?
In what circumstances would they work with a P.I.?
What are the parameters of what info they can share with a P.I.?

Will’s responses:

These are an interesting set of questions that I can say I have had little experience with. As a Police Officer and Detective I have not ever had a situation in which I worked with a P.I.

For the most part police departments deal with incidents of crime and work with the community to solve neighborhood problems. Though I am not an expert on the subject, I believe that many private investigators deal with civil related matters. Some examples that I know of are insurance claims, locating family members, backgrounds and gathering evidence for civil cases. We have very different jobs.

I can imagine a few examples where our paths may cross and that would be with missing person’s cases or cold homicides. I could imagine that a family would think it prudent to hire a P.I in order to help find their lost loved ones, etc.

As far as the parameters of sharing information, that would be somewhat limited. Many of the resources that police use in order to gather information are for law enforcement purposes only. We have clear rules as to what can be released to the public, etc. An officer would not run a license plate for a P.I for example.

This would also be somewhat dependent on the type of case and who was hiring the P.I. As long as the report was not confidential, it would be provided to family members who would in turn distribute the info to the P.I. All of the details of the detective’s investigation would be found within the report.

All that being said, the internet has become a substantial source of information. There are many paid sites, which P.I’s use, that can provide the same information that we can. In this day and age a person can find who owns a house, car, marriage certificates, credit type tracking, limited criminal history information, etc.

Again, if you’d like to submit a question, simply email Will at with the subject line “Cop Question”. Check back next month to see what kind of question Will gets to answer.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Will! You answered all my questions perfectly! I imagine you have so many interesting stories that you can turn into novels!


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