This story was published on July 27 in the Jacksonville Progress. This was a fun story to write, as the subject was a very interesting and entertaining person to speak to.
To Brian West, becoming a private investigator is the culmination of almost every previous career he’s had, spanning three decades. Whatever job he has held, he said, it always lead to him investigating things. It started during his time in the U.S. Army, where he often found himself undercover or part of a surveillance team.
“I was part of Army aviation, in my military portion of my life,” he said. “We would find ourselves doing surveillance stuff for joint operations with the DEA or the ATF.”
After the Army, he went back to school. In his college days, one of his part-time jobs was being an observer with U.S. Customs. This job involved refueling aircraft and reporting on drug aircraft that were moving in and out of the area.
With a bachelor’s of science degree in radio, television and film from the University of Texas, he spent time working as a camera man in Houston. During that time, he helped make safety and promotional videos for several companies, but would also occasionally get called to help surveillance and legal teams.
The idea of becoming a private investigator did not occur to him until an old friend from the military brought it up at a wedding. His friend had recently become a private investigator in Colorado.
“He said, ‘Brian, I know how you think. I know what things you enjoy. I really think you would like to be a private investigator’.”
He added that being a private investigator requires several skills: Thinking on one’s feet, being able to think logically and to follow information, and above all to be capable of pulling yourself away from the situation. A private investigator cannot always get the results that the client wants. His/her job is simply to gather information and to report back to the client, West said.
West was a bit reluctant to follow his friend’s advice, at first, mainly because he thought private investigators were mostly retired cops, detectives, or people with official investigation backgrounds. However, people from law enforcement backgrounds are apparently the minority in private investigation work. The majority are former military, he said.
While attending the University of North Texas to get a degree in the private investigation program (one of the few colleges in the nation to offer such a program) he said that 9 of the 13 people in his class were ex-military. On top of his 20 years of experience in the surveillance field, he has been an officially registered PI since May of this year.
His new office is located on 205 East Commerce Street in Jacksonville. He said he already has a job lined up, but could not say much about it, as his work is information-sensitive. He can handle all types of cases, from fraud investigations to background checks. He said private investigators are similar to doctors in that while they all understand the basics of their field, many specialize in certain cases. West has two specializations.
One is SCUBA and underwater investigations. West is a dive master with 25 years of experience. This means that, for example, if a boat were to sink in Lake Jacksonville, and the owner of the boat claimed to have hit a tree stump, he could go down into the lake, find the wreck, and determine what actually happened.
His second specialization is in FAA certified UAV (drone) related investigations. As drones grow in popularity, these types of investigations can also be expected to become more regular. As a certified commercial drone pilot West is qualified to investigate any drone related incidents (damage to property or person by a drone, for instance). He can determine if it was an accident, pilot error, faulty equipment, intentional damage, etc.
“Jacksonville is a really great spot to be in,” West said. “It’s strategically located between Henderson, Palestine, Tyler and Athens. People in these smaller communities need representation, too.”
To contact West, email email@example.com or call (903) 221-9810.
More information may also be found at SummitIandI.com.