PPIAC Chairman supports mandatory licensing

Dear Senators,

My name is Chris Bray and I am the Chair Of the Board for the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, a trade group of private investigators that has been advocating on behalf of our members in this industry since 1978.

The Senate Judiciary is scheduled to hear SB13-259, which will require that all private investigators in Colorado obtain a license from the Department of Regulatory Agencies.  I am writing you in support of this bill and also to address any concerns that have been raised by opposing parties.

First and foremost, this bill is not about money, dues, fees or financial impact on the industry.  It is about consumer protection.

The primary opponents of this legislation would have you believe that the reason that this bill was brought forward is because the Voluntary Licensing Program that is currently in effect has become fiscally unstable – and proponents of licensure are trying to spread the cost of the program over the entire industry.  This is a gross mischaracterization of our intent.  While the voluntary program has indeed become fiscally unstable, the reason we are bringing the bill forward is because there is the distinct probability that if the General Assembly decides it cannot survive on its own – it should be repealed.  At that point, Colorado will have no consumer protection in this state from private investigators that are untrained, unvetted and unregulated.

Please bear in mind that the voluntary system was an effort to reach an agreement across the political aisle with conservatives that were philosophically opposed to any regulatory oversight whatsoever.  When we began preparing for another run at licensure in the summer of 2010, we began with the desire for mandatory regulation for all practitioners.  But at the suggestion of the Honorable Representative Bob Gardner, we agreed to a program that gave private investigators an opportunity to “opt out” (for lack of a better term).  This, in our eyes, was better than no consumer protection at all.  Consumers would be (at least) afforded an opportunity to choose between a licensed PI and a non-licensed PI.

But, unfortunately, the voluntary program has failed and is on the brink of repeal.  DORA has indicated in a letter to the JBC that “absent any legislative change” to the program, the program will be unable to continue.  The JBC itself has been considering a bill to repeal the program this session.  And if the program is repealed, Colorado will have no licensure and no consumer protection whatsoever.

Proponents of licensure see that as a step backward and are not willing to return to a state where the consumer has no protection in this state.  Some 45 other states have regulatory environments for private investigators and it is clearly thought of as a best practice throughout the land.  We see no reason to return and join those that offer no protection to their citizens.

Yes, we should address the financial impact on the industry.  In a nutshell, the cost to each practitioner – now that the entire industry is being brought into the pool – will significantly reduce the annual cost.  The program will not be financially burdensome to the practitioners.  And frankly, we’re happy about that.  What business wouldn’t be happy about lower costs? But it is not the reason we are bringing this bill forward.  The cost of a license is merely a byproduct of the issue we are in favor of.  Nothing more.  It is not the genesis of this bill.

I encourage you to take the time and read through the bill.  You will see that we have created a path to the profession through apprenticeship; we are creating an advisory committee to assist DORA in regulatory issues and decisions; we have created protection to consumers through a bonding requirement; and last, we have further defined who is and isn’t a private investigator under this law.  I think you’ll agree it’s a step in the right direction.

In closing – let me say it one last time:  This is not about money or fee reduction.  It is about protecting the consumer from persons who have no business holding themselves out as private investigators to an unsuspecting and uneducated public.

Thank you, and vote YES on SB13-259.

Chris Bray
CO PI Lic.#537
Chairman, Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado

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