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From Ireland Police Recruit to U.N. International Investigator to American EPS

  • August 14, 2012
  • by John Sexton
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Editor's note: This article was written by an industry professional and guest contributor. The views and opinions in this article are of the author and do not reflect the views of PInow. If you are interested in becoming a guest contributor, send an email to [email protected]


When I first entered the Security world in 1978, it was as a 19 year old Police recruit in the Republic of Ireland.  As a Police Officer, I was exposed to a plethora of investigations down through the years, but it was not until some 13 years later when I was promoted to Detective and assigned to an elite National Counter-Terrorist Unit, that I became more aware of the intricate nature of working high level investigations.  As I write this introduction piece and force myself to look back over the years, I can see now that I was constantly being drawn to investigations, since nearly every turn in my security career has led me down that path.

In 1994, I availed of an opportunity to travel to Africa with the United Nations and work with the Government of Mozambique to create the first unified Army of Mozambique (which was important to have in place before their first ever democratically held elections since gaining their independence from Portugal in the 70’s).  The following year, in 1995, I joined the U.N. full time and was sent to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia as Deputy Chief of the Special Investigations Unit.  At that time, Operation UNPROFOR was the largest peace keeping mission in the world with over 45,000 personnel from all over the world being assigned to; Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Western Sirmium and Eastern Slavonia.

This is where the “investigation bug” really bit me and I became addicted for life. It was also where I was forced to admit that I had become an adrenaline junkie. Back in those days the S.I.U. Unit consisted of a Chief, three International investigators and a local investigator/liaison/interpreter. Shortly after I arrived, we added more internationals and grew the unit to one local investigator and 8 internationals.  We were responsible for investigating every incident involving International Personnel (more than 45,000), local staff and local community where the crime/allegation spilled over into the city/town/village in which the UN personnel were based.  

Mostly, the incidents which we were tasked to investigate involved very serious cases such as murder, forced prostitution, corruption, black marketeering, smuggling, unfair hiring practices, procurement fraud, sexual harassment, etc.  Since our area of operations covered six regions, all of whom were looking to break free from each other and form their own independent country/autonomous area, in order for us to do our jobs as investigators, we had to constantly cross over the front lines of the three individual wars which were concurrently raging at that time (Serbia Vs Croatia, Croatia Vs Bosnia and the Republika Serpska Vs Bosnia).  In my second month in the Region, I was assigned to fly down to Sarajevo, to investigate an allegation that UN personnel were involved in a black marketeering scandal.  In the mid-90s, the city of Sarajevo was under siege and the price of basic food items had sky rocketed – a single apple in the market sold for $5.00, a Kilo (2.2lbs) bag of sugar sold for $10.00, a can of Coke; $5.00, etc.

The day I flew into Sarajevo on a C130, was the day that Sarajevo International airport went on red alert and had to shut down permanently due to the fact that it was on the front lines of the Bosnia/Republika Serpska war zone and the Serbia troops were shooting up into all incoming planes to try and bring them down or at least kill as many passengers as they could. The investigation which I launched turned out to be very successful and I was able to identify and get those involved to confess. The downside was that a week long investigation turned into nearly a month as I had no way to get back to Head Quarters up in Zagreb, Croatia, with the airport becoming a no-fly zone.

To make a long story short, I eventually made it back up north to Zagreb, but I was so drawn to the danger and also the serious nature of investigating in such a volatile area, that three months later I volunteered to head back down to Sarajevo and set up the first S.I.U. unit that ever existed in Bosnia. A couple of years later, I came to the U.S. to visit a sick friend and whilst I was here, I was introduced to a former Marine Recon and a former Navy Seal who wanted me to come over to the Washington D.C. area to manage their security company. At first I did not think much about the idea, but after I returned to Bosnia, I began thinking about their offer and I realized that I did not want to spend the rest of my life in the Balkans. I left after 5 years there, but my reason for leaving was NOT to become a Private Investigator.

In March, 2000, I came over to the Washington D.C. area with a rough-draft manuscript which I had begun writing in Mozambique and finished in Bosnia. My intention was to stop over in D.C., locate a few publishers and literary agents and see if they had any interest in my work before I headed up to New York City to start knocking on doors there. Two days after I landed, I called in to visit the two guys who had tried to get me to work for them a couple of years previously. They seemed very glad to see me and after I told the former Marine about my plans, he advised me to “hold onto that idea”, but in the meantime, to go to class to get my Virginia Private Investigator’s registration. I mulled it over as I drank the coffee he had made me and before I was finished he reappeared and told me that he had enrolled me into a P.I. training class in the area that was starting on Monday morning. This was on Friday afternoon – three days before the class was scheduled to begin.  

And that is how I began my Private Investigation career.      


More from John Sexton on his career and why he likes being an investigator:


Police Recruit to Private Investigator John SextonJohn Sexton, CII, PPS, CST, is the President and Director of Training for the SEXTON Training Institute.  He has over 30 years experience in law enforcement, non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations and various corporations.  He has worked and traveled extensively throughout West and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  Prior to joining the United Nations in 1994 and working with the Government of Mozambique, he was a member of a counter-terrorist unit in the British Isles. His service in the former Yugoslavia as Chief of the Special Investigations Unit took him throughout Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia/Herzegovina and Macedonia during the Balkan wars of the mid 90’s.  After five continuous years in the Balkans, he settled in the Washington D.C. Metro area in 2000, where he founded his own private security firm and training academy.  He is registered as a P.I., Personal Protection Specialist, and holds a PPS Advanced Handgun from DCJS.  He is an NRA firearms instructor and a Bureau of Criminal Identification Firearm Instructor.  In addition he is certified as a general instructor by the Dept. of Criminal Justice Services and is an internationally trained instructor, certified by the Academy of Security Educators and Trainers and a former Board Member of A.S.E.T.   

He lectures on security matters - particularly training and amongst his prestigious engagements are an address on business ethics at the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2006 and addressing the National Annual Security Conference in New Delhi, India in December, 2007 on security training.  He teaches Conflict Resolution skills in Washington D.C. and as a result has testified before Board Commissioners as a subject matter expert.  He teaches advanced security classes in the Commonwealth of Virginia and has been responsible for having courses added to the State’s curriculum.  He is an Executive Board member (Vice President) of the Professional Investigators and Security Association (PISA), a State wide association.  He is also an Executive Board member holding the position of Second Vice President for the Council of International Investigators (CII) and is a member of INTELLENET, an international association of former intelligence officers and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (A.C.F.E.).               


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