Veteran Denver private investigator Rick Johnson, 68, says “be grateful for what you have” after a stroke almost killed him. Paralyzed on his left side and confined to a wheelchair, Johnson says with extensive physical therapy he’ll be walking again and plans to get back to work, albeit with a reduced schedule, writes Simon Crittle.
How are you?
I’ve been in a facility since the middle of January. I’m paralyzed on the left side. I cannot walk. Other than that, I feel OK. PT is pretty tough, learning to walk again. I’m lucky to be alive. I almost died. When I got to the hospital they were going to call a priest. This was a brain bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke. They’re the kind that kill people. It almost killed me.
I was at home talking to my wife. I’d had a stroke before so she knew what was happening. She called 911 before I hit the ground.
What’s the prognosis?
I am continuing to work. I will get back to work. I will walk again. I may be in physical therapy the rest of my life. That’s how bad this was. My last stroke was about five years ago. That was a clot stroke. This was a brain bleed. There is a huge difference.
What do you think of the bill to renew licensing for private investigators currently before the State House?
My view is that we should get rid of licensing. We should have never had it in the first place. There was no reason to introduce it five years ago and there is no reason to renew it now. Let me tell you who benefits from this. It benefits the investigator who has no experience. They can say “I have a license.” A license is recognition, as bad as you might be. Big deal. If that’s all you have to offer, you shouldn’t be a private eye. It is a fraud on the public. Seriously.
What’s going to happen with your private investigator academy?
I’m going to continue it. We had the academy before licensing. We had it after. But because of the virus, the spring academy has been canceled. The next one will be in the fall. Ryan (Ross) was one of my first academy students. Sean Meade, the former LA cop who works for Ryan, has been through. I’ve had a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter run through that academy, Dan Luzadder. He’s probably one of the best reporters in the world.
Has the experience of having a stroke changed your priorities?
You’d be a fool if you didn’t learn something from almost dying. What did I learn? Be grateful for what you have. I’ve also thought about what I am going to change. I own an office building. I’m going to sell that. A lot of people already know that. I am going to cut back tremendously. But I’ll be back.
A bill that aims to continue requiring private investigators in Colorado be licensed is likely to become law despite a possible funding shortfall and a state government agency recommending it be scrapped.
On Monday the state’s General Assembly Finance Committee kept the bill alive and voted to send it to the Appropriations Committee. But lawmakers expressed concern the $75,000 annual cost to regulate the industry might not be covered by licensing fees.
At the same time, a report released by the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) said the Assembly should phase out the existing law because “disciplinary actions against licensed individuals are virtually nonexistent.”
“Prior to passage of the Act, it was believed that there may have been a slight chance that the public could be financially harmed by not regulating PIs (private investigators),” says the DORA report. “However, the data now verify that this harm does not occur.”
DORA says the argument often used to justify licensing private investigators is they gain access to sensitive personal information. However, DORA said most sensitive data are regulated and are accessible only to individuals who’ve been vetted by database operators.
The bill sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton told Ross Investigators the reasoning for getting rid of the existing law was that there weren’t enough complaints.
“I think that’s actually a good thing,” Melton said, “It shows the right people are passing the test and projecting themselves as private investigators instead of this being the Wild West.”
During the committee hearing, Rep.Tracy Kraft-Tharp questioned the cost implications of the bill, pointing out the current annual $25,000 shortfall between the cost of regulating the industry and fees raised by granting licenses to private investigators.
“Is nobody else disturbed by this?” asked Representative Kraft-Tharp, a Democrat. “This is a program DORA is not recommending continuing. Let’s remember that. That’s the backdrop. But we have to make up the $25,000 some place. Is it going to be an increase in fees?”
The bill’s sponsors responded to the Rep. Kraft-Tharp’s concerns, saying they would look into the funding shortfall and determine if fees raised from previous years were held in reserve.
The bill (HB20-1207) – Sunset Regulation Of Private Investigators – continues the regulatory regime of private investigators for five years. It enjoys bipartisan support from sponsors Rep. James Wilson (Republican) and senators Mike Foote (Democrat) and John Cooke (Republican.)
Outside the state house, the bill is supported by the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado.
Since 2015, 77 complaint files were opened and only eight disciplinary actions taken. Of those, six were conditional licenses, issued to individuals because of behavior prior to being licensed, not after. Of the remaining actions, two were dispensed to one individual who was issued a letter of admonition as well as a practice stipulation for harassment against another private investigator.
No private investigator licenses have been revoked under the current law.
Private investigators have been regulated by DORA since 2011. Requirements to obtain a private investigator’s license include being at least 21 years old, submitting an application, passing a background check, passing a jurisprudence exam, posting a surety bond and paying fees.
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