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Individuals whose business it is to observe and provide information about alleged criminals or to discover matters of secrecy for the protection of the public.

Private detectives are those who are hired by individuals for private protection or to obtain information. A private detective is licensed but is not ordinarily considered to be a public officer. In cases where private detectives perform the duties and exercise the powers of public officers, the constitutional provisions governing such officers can be applied to them.

Public detectives are employed by the general community for the protection of society and, as members of public law enforcement agencies and police departments, are considered peace officers.

The incorporation of private detective companies or associations may be subject to statutory requirements. Detectives are regulated by legislation as well as the rules of the municipality where they are employed. In the absence of contrary statutory provision, private detectives do not have the same powers as public peace officers.

A private detective can be held liable for rough shadowing—the open and public surveillance of an individual done in an unreasonable manner that constitutes an invasion of privacy.

References in classic literature ?
I am sorry, real sorry--for your sake; because, when it gets around that a detective has expressed himself confidently, and then--"
As soon as the robbery was discovered, picked detectives hastened off to Liverpool, Glasgow, Havre, Suez, Brindisi, New York, and other ports, inspired by the proffered reward of two thousand pounds, and five per cent.
At a wooden table in front of the window, which normally looked out on this landscape, sat two men in plain clothes, but with something of a military bearing, for indeed they were the two chiefs of the detective service of that district.
The latter was Colonel Ross, the well-known sportsman; the other, Inspector Gregory, a man who was rapidly making his name in the English detective service.
Instead, he called in the detectives, and, under their advice, weighted the pigeon heavily with shot.
At that moment the Fynes, still at the window and watching like a pair of private detectives, saw a man with a long grey beard and a jovial face go up the steps helping himself with a thick stick, and knock at the door.
The other detectives followed him at a reluctant trot.
The two detectives strode away, Summerhaye with an incredulous grin on his face.
For the moment I did think you were one of these smart detectives jumped to life from some sixpenny magazine; but to preserve the illusion you ought to provide yourself with a worthier lieutenant.
No, somehow or other, even if she put detectives on his trail, she must find him, and be off with the old love now that she was on with the new.
you and I are the two worst amateur detectives that ever tried their hands at the trade.
But there was also about him an indescribable air which no mechanic could have acquired in the practice of his handicraft however dishonestly exercised: the air common to men who live on the vices, the follies, or the baser fears of mankind; the air of moral nihilism common to keepers of gambling hells and disorderly houses; to private detectives and inquiry agents; to drink sellers and, I should say, to the sellers of invigorating electric belts and to the inventors of patent medicines.