What does detective work look like? An interview with Wiesław Jan Modrakowski


- We are talking through the phone and my imagination gives me the following picture: you are sitting in a comfortable armchair, glass of whiskey in hand, documents and photos are lying on the desk, and a panama hat is hanging on the hanger. Is this what detective work looks like? - Not so much.  Now a desk, I do indeed own, but I don't spend much working on it. A Panama hat? Beautiful and spectacular, but not very useful, and a glass of whiskey or rum is completely untrue. The real attributes of a head of a detective agency today are a good computer, a good smartphone, modern means of communication, a good car, because we work throughout the country and beyond that, of course, a good team of prepared professionals. But the most important thing, the absolute priority, is knowledge and experience. That is where it all begins. If someone does not have the preparation for this kind of profession, they should give up this career. Remember that the detective enters into the most important and personal affairs, often touching on very private spheres of life, so if he does not know where the boundaries are, what legal norms are in force in Poland, he can do a lot of damage and expose their customers to serious problems. The same applies to the spheres of property, economic and, of course, criminal matters, where ignorance of the issues in which detective activities are performed can sometimes cause irreparable damage. Hence, this may expose to responsibility, but not those who should "experience" it, but those who perform activities, who, lacking sufficient knowledge, will get into a "dead end" without solving the received "riddle" (read: jobs).  We have to make arrangements, check the facts, find information that will help the customer solve his difficult situation and never comment on any information.  It is almost always a delicate matter, requiring – apart from, of course, professionalism – also empathy and delicacy, as well as knowledge from very different fields.


 - What is the idea behind a graduate of the esteemed Faculty of Law of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, with the title of Doctor of Laws, becoming a private detective?

- That was due to my previous work in the Investigation Department, experience and observations of various actual cases during many years of scientific and didactic work with various entities, as well as people involved in the security and legal protection system, and then later work in the Operations Department in the Office for Economic Crimes of the Police Headquarters. At the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, when the political and economic system in Poland changed, we encountered problems that were previously unknown in Poland.  We had to look for new, tactical legal solutions so that victims who suffered damages could find protection in regulations and specific actions aimed at not only finding the perpetrator, but also proving his guilt. It was not easy at all, because the changing economic reality in Poland meant that suddenly many spheres of economic life were completely deprived of legal protection. As a result, both the citizen and the officer of broadly understood legal protection service found themselves in a dead end. The possibilities were very limited, and in Poland it was necessary to build structures for the recognition and prevention of crime from scratch. Of course, this was most evident not in the criminal sphere – here, for centuries, human motivations and ways of acting have remained unchanged – but rather in the economic sphere. I participated in the creation of new regulations and it was an extremely interesting challenge. I was so absorbed that I decided to continue this work on my own, because in Poland there was an interest in detective services.


"I guess this interest wasn't born so much as it exploded. Where Polish private detectives came from?

- There is a bit of exaggeration in this term, the beginning of the nineties was not so rosy yet.  The real explosion came later, with the entry of Western corporations into Poland.  Their managers, with extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the free market, pointed to the necessary security standards in the free market economic sphere...


- Including the pathology of the free market.

- First of all, very fierce competition. Western managers perceived the entire security sphere completely differently from the Polish entrepreneurs. Western businessmen and their Western lawyers knew that certain spheres of economic activity should be protected in a professional manner, for both their and clients sake.  Not through the proverbial brother-in-law, but through entities that have experience in this area, the necessary knowledge, modern equipment, capabilities, and a team of well-prepared people.  As a result, Western corporations that had established themselves in Poland began to outsource many tasks to private detective agencies. Over time, Polish entrepreneurs also adopted this model.


- I will return to the question of where Polish detectives came from. You are an excellent source of information on this subject, because you were the president of the Management Board of the Polish Association of Licensed Detectives, the president of the Polish Federation of Detectives, where you are now the honorary president, an advisor on the security of counterintelligence protection of contracts and corporations, a lecturer at the Institute of Police Sciences, and finally the author of many specialized studies in the field of economic protection of the state.

- In the early 1990s, realistically there were no legal regulations for the activities of private detective companies. The profession included people who had previously worked in the broadly understood justice system, i.e. officers of the formation of the Ministry of the Interior, but also prosecutors, lawyers, people previously employed in private security agencies.  Of course, also people with no experience who have read crime novels and then dreamed about the career of a "Polish Marlowe" hoping that – as you said at the beginning – this job consists of sitting behind a desk and sipping whiskey.  Later this situation has changed.  Examinations were introduced, during which it was necessary to demonstrate a really wide, specialized knowledge of various fields of law, but also knowledge of related fields: forensics, criminology,  psychology, sociology. Of course, it was also necessary to know the rules for conducting this specific business activity, for which the legislator specified not only sine qua non obligations, but also criminal sanctions for non-compliance with them, etc. Unfortunately, the deregulation act abolished examinations, replacing them with the obligation to participate in a thirty-hour course on the rules of performing detective services. In my opinion, this change is detrimental to the quality of services provided by the security industry, but above all to customers, recipients of these services. After the deregulation, anyone who wants or who has failed in another activity may, after completing such a course, fulfilling the condition for absence of a criminal record, and paying for the license, can perform such services... As for the statement of the authors behind this change that „the market will verify it” - I do not consider it as an sufficient argument for changing the standard of verification for a profession of public trust.


Who are the customers of this industry, then?  At first, they were probably weeping wives suspecting their husbands of treason.


- And they still are, there are also husbands who suspect their wives of the same.  A few years ago, the once completely unknown sphere of protection of children's rights appeared. There are more and more such cases, that are extremely delicate and require specific traits and special professional preparation from detectives, including psychology. But of course, the largest group of customers are large business entities.


And what do they expect?

- The same as always – information.  That is why, at the beginning of our conversation, among the most important tools of a private detective, I mentioned a professionally secured computer and encrypted communication.  The world today is flooded with information, which is usually quite easily available, but also unreliable.  Therefore, many companies need their professional verification, because the network is full of fake news, unverified and simply untrue information. Companies often also look for witnesses of certain events, verification of these events, facts that may affect, for example, processes, and sometimes even the functioning of business entities.  This is what we do.  At the same time, it is worth saying that, as a rule, contracts with companies contain a clause stating that recipients are only interested in information that has been obtained by legal methods and means.


- High requirements. To meet them, you need to have a really good team and use the experience and knowledge of related professions. - Exactly, yes.  A good and honest team, professionally prepared and loyal, patiently committed to every case. I expect candidates for this job to have experience in the broadly understood legal sector and knowledge of the law.  But not just purely theoretical knowledge of the criminal or civil code, but also experience in applying the law in practice.  I also require the people working for me to comply with the law in the field of documenting and securing data and their proper settlement, because for the customer it is a guarantee that the information we obtain will not be used in other matters and, of course, outside the company. Additional experience is also welcome, and the wider the scope, the better.  This applies, of course, to knowledge in the field of forensic science, criminology, but also psychology, sociology and human behaviour. In its activities, Expertus® often uses the experience and knowledge of external consultants, for example experts in forensic technology or security techniques, psychologists and sociologists, and even doctors and engineers of various specialties as well as bankers and economic analysts.  All this makes our services appreciated by business entities operating in Poland.  Besides, not only in Poland, because we also carry out many contracts outside our country.


from Latin "Experienced and effective in the profession"