The World Association of Professional Investigators (WAPI) – founded in 2000
WAPI was the brainchild of the late Stuart Withers CEO of Nationwide Investigations Group (NIG), London, who went on to become the training/ mentor GC member of the association, who together with John Edwards MD of BIB Bedfordshire Investigation Bureau, and a past Chairman of the association approached me Ian Withers of Priority Investigations, Belfast to attend a meeting in late 1998 to discuss the concept of a new professional association for Investigators. When the UK Government introduced the licensing law in 2000 to regulate the Security Industry – including the Investigation Sector, WAPI’s founder members convened their first meeting and formed the first Governing Council which sprang WAPI into life.
There had been up to this time only the ABI and IPI in the UK, who rightly or wrongly were not perceived as being entirely “open” to all in the sector. A result of this widely held view was that a significant percentage of the estimated 10,000+ UK practising PI’s did not belong to, or wish to belong to either body.
The initial meeting was attended by a few practising PI’s from various parts of the UK, and included our past Chairman John Edwards, these few became the Founder Members.
WAPI was introduced to the PI world in early 2000. The associated eGroup “UK2” (now the WAPI open group) very quickly got off the ground, in no time there were over 200 members! Today the eGroup stands at over a thousand strong, whilst WAPI membership hovers at 420 + members, drawn from all around the world and includes Private, Government and Law Enforcement Investigators! The Egroup is now run by our current chairman Tony Smith.
Once licensing was announced in the UK, there was a sudden move across the sector to join Associations, both to be within a Representative Group, and hoping that through membership mandates (strength in numbers), there might be some room to negotiate with Government as to the terms of the regulation.
The early years however were fraught with difficulties, just to become accepted by our peers, and the other longstanding Associations took great effort and careful negotiation. The initial WAPI Governing Council worked tirelessly, as well as operating their own Agencies, to earn the WAPI place on the Way Forward Group, and indeed, a great deal of both time and expenses were donated freely and with great enthusiasm by the founder members which has undoubtedly enabled WAPI to achieve its key position today in the still ongoing licensing debate, as well as representing WAPI members and the Sector in other regulatory issues and concerns. For example, WAPI along with the other Sector representatives participated in the re-writing of the Investigation Sector National Occupational Standards (NOS), and took part in the current Review of the NOS (through Skills for Security).
The newly formed WAPI, having quickly built up a membership, enabled the founding GC to have that all important mandate to represent the membership! Thus WAPI was able to join the new multi association representative body – The Way Forward Group, later becoming the ISG (Investigator Sector Group). As a member representing both WAPI members and by virtue of the mandate also pledged to represent the unaligned Investigators, WAPI was able to participate with the other Associations in “face to face” negotiations with the Home Office and later the Security Industry Authority (SIA). WAPI was right there – at the right time, voicing through the sector group our members concerns, challenging Government and the SIA on every Issue which was felt to be negative for the PI sector.
WAPI produced a proposed Competence Criteria Document, which was circulated widely to both the Sector and the SIA (Security Industry Authority) – we still support and urge the SIA to adopt a method of determining “competence (as one of the criteria to be licensed) based on our proposal – sector based qualifications and/ or proven experience rather than setting exams.
Over the years WAPI has attended and participated in the many meetings, organised joint association’s meetings and seminars, to distribute the regulatory news, organised along with the other associations the largest UK Investigator event to date, “The European Congress” which was held in London. And later, other ISG conferences and the widely acclaimed WAPI seminar in Birmingham. The WAPI annual banquets which take place every 2 years are a highlight for the Association, immensely popular and well attended AND open to all from the Sector, whether or not a WAPI member – this accords with the Associations “open door” policies in terms of the “unaligned”.
WAPI has attended and participated in major PI Conferences in the USA, and around Europe, and has now truly come of age! The Members enjoy the “Brand Marketing” of the association and its members internationally, and benefit from the confidence of membership and instant trust placed in members by colleagues around the world. The membership has grown to include Professional Investigators, both Private and Law Enforcement from all around the World, with obvious networking advantages.
There is little doubt that the vast majority of Professional Private Investigators support the concept of being regulated, licensed – the plus side of being licensed outweighs any negative factors. However, it is proving exceedingly difficult for the EU State’s Governments to balance what they believe is desirable for their particular State as against the EU Community Objectives and Directives!
WAPI firmly believe and support the concept of a Trans-EU System of Professional Licensing – to enable any licensed EU PI to undertake his inquiries anywhere in the EU, as well as to open offices and contract with clients in and from the entire community.
I would urge every Investigator to become a member of an Association, preferably WAPI! Membership provides professionalism to your persona, gives confidence to those with whom you deal, and provides a set of standards in terms of ethics.
To belong to a Professional Body demonstrates to all around that you are aware of the changing situation within your profession, are updated about new and changing law and operational aspects of conducting investigations.
You are represented by your Association and encouraged to participate in the running of your Association – by being nominated to stand for election to the Governing Council each year.
If you have not yet joined, you can do so using this website. Click here
Ian (D. Withers) – Priority Investigations Ireland
WAPI – Past Chairman / UK-EU Regulation