I am a first time unpublished novelist. I am looking for info on police procedures in the novel I'm currently working on. To try and keep it as short as possible, my protagonist finds out his brother goes missing. They both live in Canada and it is believed that the brother may be in the San Diego, CA area. Would it be advisable/believable for the protagonist to hire a P.I. in the San Diego area or would it be a more advisable/believable procedure to contact the police in California? My plot thus far is that the missing brother has been recruited into a hard core religious cult. I'm thinking that the protagonist, his brother, would go into the cult as part of a rescue operation and pose as a recruit with police support on the outside. This cult also has or could have a stockpile of weaponry. Would the FBI be involved because of the weapons (automatic rifles and whatnot) and is there any way of getting info on how the FBI investigates? Any info would be appreciated. I'm just trying to make it as believable as possible.
Cults usually only come law enforcement surveillance L/E has evidence of illegal activity. The David Koresh cult in Waco, TX, for instance, was being investigated for illegal weapons sales, not for being a cult, when that whole fiasco there went down.
The problem is many cults are based on some form of religious belief, and putting them under surveillance, etc., can be construed as a First Amendment violation. Now if NSA picked up electronic intel in its massive data collection efforts that indicated some cult was planning an attack of kind, then L/E would get involved.
Now having said that, I should point out that many cults have been involved in terrorist attacks. The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo launched sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995. In the 1980, the Rajneeshee cult launched a bioterror attack by lacing the salad bars in restaurants in Oregon with some bio-agent. I suspect if a cult has a past history of terrorism, they will indeed be under surveillance.
Others have posted excellent posts. My points are:
1. Irrespective of the legal procedures (and there is definetly a time and place for them to keep it real) anyone can hire a PI to follow whatever they wish.
2. Fiction - we are writing fiction! Therefore, get creative and stay believable. You can take the story anywhere!
Good luck and have fun!