Being an investigator isn’t an easy job. Many interactions are by definition antagonistic. Small errors can be the difference between an effective prosecution and an opportunist getting away with fraud. In some cases, you’re reliant on resources from the agency you’re charged with investigating. All of this means it’s important to have certain traits to do well in this job.
One of the most important traits of an investigator, if not the most important trait, is integrity. It is the trait that allows an investigator to survive the antagonism, manipulation and stonewalling, mentally intact. It’s also what allows an investigative office to retain its credibility, even when under attack from agencies who are chafing under its findings and recommendations. But what is integrity, exactly?
WingSwept shares integrity as a core value with many investigative agencies. Unlike most companies, we showcase our core values front and center, openly using them to inform major decisions by the company or to recognize employees who made an exemplary commitment to one of them in the actions they performed. In my time here, I’ve noticed that integrity is easier to understand through the actions of others than through any definition a dictionary might provide. In that light, here are a few examples of how investigators’ commitment to integrity goes above and beyond what’s expected in other careers or industries:
State of California OIG – While it’s easy for many outside of prison to ignore that part of our society, the IG office is responsible for making sure prisoners’ rights are protected. Add to that a far overstretched California prison system and a union threatening its own members for talking to the investigators, and you’ve got an extremely difficult situation. Despite this, the IG persevered and produced a damaging findings report in December of 2015 – a report that led the State Corrections Department to commission an external report that this week found many of the same problems.
Pentagon Inspector General – The armed services perform a critical service for our nation, and remain among the most respected groups in the United States. Retaining that respect requires that all service members be held to the same high standard. In a command structure as hierarchical as the armed forces, it’s left to agencies such as Inspectors General to hold the top brass to account.
That’s what happened last year, when a Major General was fired after visiting an off-limits strip club and using a government credit card to pay the tab – multiple times. He was fired in November, and the IG report which led to his firing was publicly released earlier this month.
Minnesota DHS – Jerry Kerber, The Inspector General of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services announced recently he is stepping down, after five years on the job. Between his appointment as the first IG of the department in 2012 and his decision to step down, he has investigated maltreatment of vulnerable citizens in Minnesota and focused on infant death reduction at home-based child care providers. In his resignation letter to staff, he said “”What can be more fulfilling than being part of a team that is dedicated to assuring that children and vulnerable adults are safe — and that they are getting the services they need, that we pay for, and that are provided by the right people?”
Thanks to Jerry Kerber and everyone else in Offices of Inspector General who work tirelessly, often without much public recognition, to ensure that our public servants are conducting themselves fairly, ethically, and honestly.