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Hot Topics in Investigation: The First Private Investigator, Health Inspector Fired After Surveillance

Eugène François Vidocq: The First Private Investigator

In 1775 in the city of Arras, France, Eugène François Vidocq was brought into the world. What began as a life of crime and mischief would evolve into the first private investigation agency, established in 1812. Vidocq's career paved the way for modern private investigators. As an expert in criminology and ballistics and a man who understood the importance of keeping records, he and his team of 28 former criminals were able to reduce crime in Paris over the course of ten years.

"Despite his talents, the young Vidocq seemed guided by his shadier instincts. He was a womanizer, often in trouble for dueling, and later, for desertion. After leaving the army, he committed various thefts and frauds, spending time in and out of jail. He was sentenced to hard labour for forgery in 1796 but managed to escape in 1800."

Vidocq's memoir, published after he resigned from a position to which he was appointed by Napoleon Bonaparte, chronicles his story and has been used as inspiration for many literary characters. But many of his investigative methods are still utilized today, and it is surmised that were he alive during the golden age of technology that he would have embraced modern technology and the role it plays in investigation.

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Health Inspector Fired After Private Investigator Tracks her Work Day

The Douglas County Health Department in Omaha, Nebraska, terminated one of their health inspectors following a three-day investigation period. During that time, a private investigator conducted surveillance, obtaining video indicating that the inspector was conducting personal errands during logged work hours.

"During a three-day period in August 2013, inspector Jacqueline Davenport made stops at restaurants, hardware stores and private homes. Surveillance video puts her at a cellphone store and a gym, as well.

All the while, she reported on her time card that she was working, supposedly checking homes for lead contamination."

According to reports, Davenport was assigned to check 82 total homes for lead contamination, but only eight homes had been cleared since 2010. In one case, a family moved from one of the homes in 2011 after the youngest daughter tested positive for high lead levels. Unbeknownst to them, the rental they moved into after also had high lead levels. The rental was checked by Davenport in early 2012, but nothing ever came of it.

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Supreme Court to Consider if Police Need Warrants to Search Cell Phones

The Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases that raise the question of whether police should be required to obtain a warrant in order to search the cell phones of people they arrest. The result will be an in-depth analysis of the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches.

The court has long allowed warrantless searches in connection with arrests, saying they are justified by the need to find weapons and to prevent the destruction of evidence. The question for the justices in the new cases is whether the potentially vast amounts of data held on smartphones warrant a different approach under the Fourth Amendment.

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The above image is courtesy of Top Investigator Blog Kevin's Security Scrapbook and outlines where police need warrants in order to search cell phones in connection with arrests.

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