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Private Investigators in Britain and America: Perspectives on the Impact of Popular Culture

NCJ Number
Policing Volume: 20 Issue: 4 Dated: 1997 Pages: 631-640
M Gill; J Hart
Date Published
10 pages
This paper examines the private investigator in the context of popular culture and some of the political and moral values the most prominent types of private investigators represent and compares private investigators in Great Britain and the United States.
In highlighting perceived differences in the status of private investigators in Great Britain and the United States, the paper suggests these differences may be better understood by analyzing cultural representations of the work of private investigators in each country. The British detective hero was firmly locked in the Victorian age, while the American model was more accurately reflective of modern urban life. The history of private investigators in Great Britain revealed a dominant image of seedy and often criminal snoopers. In the United States, lack of confidence in the political system and traditional mistrust of bureaucracies led to the veneration of the private investigator as the hero of individualism. This was often manifested in the protagonist's ability to make moral choices that were not always consistent with the letter of the law. A fundamental difference between British and American policing cultures was the latter's reverence for the individual as the rightful moral arbiter. 22 references and 1 note