Howard Morioka: Private Investigator
Salary: $16,000 - $39,000
One usually imagines being a private investigator as one of those singularly glamorous jobs steeped in noir mystery involving sweeping trench coats, incognito sunglasses and swift ducking among furtive shadows. But just as reality has an uncanny way of smashing all our preconceived notions, true private investigation is hard, hard work. Private investigators are often portrayed in the media as being certain of their every move, suavely setting an inescapable trap for their criminal prey. However, such confidence, Howard Morioka, a retired-FBI-agent-now-private-investigator, says, is a luxury and usually completely absent from this profession.
Morioka never intended to be a private investigator, falling into it somewhat accidentally, and now he considers, fortunately. Initially, he took the exam to qualify for private investigation as a kind of insurance policy, as an escape-hatch if he decided to retire from the FBI. After reaching the rank of supervisor, he did, indeed, decide to retire, as any other higher position would require him to move out of California. Born in Hawaii, he is a third-generation Japanese American living mostly in the Bay Area.
As private investigation is an intensely confidential profession, he declined to speak exactly about what he specializes in, but did mention that his firm focuses on civil litigation and corporate-type cases, rather than domestic cases. Duties include identifying good witnesses for law firms, finding pertinent documents, and locating people with valuable information.
Jobs opportunities in the field are expected to increase 24 percent between 1998 and 2008, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In California, the mid-range salary is $18,8000 to $39,200, slightly above national figures of $16,300 to $31,500. The growing population and increased economic activity are expected to produce more crime, litigation and need for confidential information. These factors are likely to increase demand for private investigators.
Becoming a private investigator can be a lengthy process, requiring hours of investigative experience. Morioka was lucky because his previous career as a FBI agent fulfilled his requirements easily.
Although law enforcement has traditionally been a non-Asian field (versus the more accepted doctor-or-lawyer route), Morioka has always been drawn to it. He says, As a result of trends of Asians looking for other kinds of jobs, I was often the only person of Asian descent [in private investigation], but I never felt held back by this.
He encourages the current generation of Asian Americans to become more involved in law enforcement, whether it be police enforcement, security, or private investigation. As Asian Americans multiply in this country, we need to be represented everywhere, especially in the law.
When asked about salary, he eluded the question investigator-style, saying, Well, it depends on the area and specific field the investigator works in. Many investigators work part-time, so its hard to tell. Some charge hourly, or on a daily basis. Me? Let me say that I get the job done.