Written Testimony of Sean Oliveira, Investigator, St. Louis District Office

Meeting of March 20, 2013 - Development of a Quality Control Plan for Private Sector Investigations and Conciliations

The view I espouse regarding this topic is that we are not engaged in the task of defining a quality investigation (including intake and conciliation) insomuch as we are engaged in describing and sometimes, where appropriate, prescribing, the contexts in which we would or would not say an investigation is a quality one.

'Quality' is a confusing word. At times we use it as though there are standards somehow outside any given context, but if we look at how we learn to use the word it is clear that the word is more like a family of meanings bundled together like the way twine is in a rope, rather than a single meaning which will always pick out 'quality' when we need it to. Instead, when being taught the use of the word 'quality' in a Music Appreciation context for example, we are told that 'this' or 'that' is 'quality' and if we ask why, the answer we are given is dependent upon the level of expertise present in the person who answers us, i.e. it ranges from 'because they/I said so,' to 'look at this here, compare it to this over here,' and so on. It also bears noting that experts, cultures, trends and the like can deem a characteristic of something as 'adding' or 'making' it quality. Practice influences the prescription and the prescription influences the practice. Ask an expert of anything for a definition of quality in their field of expertise and they, famously try as they might and close as they might feel they've come, can't give one. Nevertheless, in their realm of expertise, they know it when they see it and they are adept at reading ahead of time what the current trends and cultural practices will call 'valuable.'

At heart, what we are looking at is a set of practices that is still being practiced and formed at the exact same time. Thus my proposal has been that we keep in mind any number of analogies (usually the hiring and evaluation of a craftsperson like a roofer) that might help us perform this task (instead of trying to define or just describing all of the things that can be done in an investigation) as we ask a number of questions, and, where there is no answer, but the need to have one is pressing, we prescribe.