Interview : Michèle Bernier
Why did you choose to be a collision investigator?
I chose it to learn what proper police investigation procedures were. I learned how to conduct every facet of an investigation: interviewing witnesses and plaintiffs, suspect interrogations, recovery of evidence, writing warrants, crime scene management, court file management, testimonies, etc.
What do you like the most about your daily work?
Contact with the public, whether plaintiffs, witnesses or suspects, as I like to try to make their experience with the police force as smooth as possible.
And what do you find most difficult?
When the plaintiff wishes to repair his vehicle as fast as possible, or that they repair it before I confirm that they can, because it destroys evidence and can harm the investigation up to having any charges dismissed.
What is your greatest challenge?
To show that our work is not a simple formality that leads to insurance payments, but more like investigation work following a criminal or penal offense.
A good number of citizens and organizations regard an accident scene as just an accident. In reality, there is often human error, and sometimes, criminal responsibility. The scene of an accident is a crime scene.
What are you most proud of?
When I have to repeatedly question suspects of a public misdeed or hit and run offense. In particular, there was one who reported their vehicle stolen while knowing this was false and I succeeded in making them acknowledge their crime in spite of a lack of evidence. Of course, charges were consequently laid.
Can you tell us a story that would illustrate the characteristics of your work?
Throughout the years, we meet many kinds of people. All accidents have a unique element: they can touch anyone, from the pedestrian to the taxi driver, the young driver to the grandmother who can only drive during the day. In spite of their great differences, these people all have the audacity to lie if they believe that it can clear them of wrongdoing!
What would you say to a young person who would like to do your job?
You don't need to know cars to become an Accident Investigation Officer. We are very well trained and, if need be, we call upon specialists to help reconstruct collisions. You must simply have the taste to inquire, not to be afraid of the workload that the investigations can present, and to have an attraction to interrogations and interviews.
What is the principal quality needed to perform your duties?
Several qualities are essential in the work of investigator, but I would say perseverance and keeping your mind sharp; patience and humility are assets to be developed if not already present.
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