Student shares experience working as a professional ‘secret keeper’

While some students spend their summers relaxing, Jeremy Manning, a fourth-year philosophy student, tracks down missing people and secretly follows spouses around for a living.

Jeremy Manning, a fourth-year philosophy student, works as a private investigator at his firm in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Jeremy Manning)

Manning is a full-time student at Cal Poly Pomona and the sole proprietor of Graystar Consulting, a private investigation firm based in Los Angeles that specializes in missing persons. The firm also provides other services on surveillance, executive protection and threat management. Most of Manning’s cases involve infidelity, which happens to be the most common cases in the Los Angeles area.

“I actually wanted to legitimately help people out, but do it on my own terms,” Manning said. Wanting an occupation that allows him to create his own schedule while attending classes, Manning acquired a license to become a private investigator and a qualified manager of his firm in 2018.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Manning has been receiving more cases, and he credits this to “people at home having nothing better to do.” With the increase of workload, he completed one to two cases per week during the spring semester and summer.

Although the job requires Manning to work odd hours and miss social gatherings, he said that it is fulfilling to know that he can “offer people answers and peace of mind.”

This semester, Manning, who is majoring in philosophy with an emphasis on law and society, stopped accepting cases to dedicate his time to completing 15 units while taking up an on-campus job as the student ambassador for the Veterans Resource Center. From time to time, he will accept background checks and due diligence work but does not plan on taking cases that require him to surveil a subject for hours.

“Anything that takes me away from the computer, I don’t have time to do it,” Manning said. “People still call me, and it sucks having to tell them ‘no’ when they need my help.”

His long-term goals, however, are to receive a master’s degree in criminology or history.

“My ultimate goal is to be a federal agent, so I’m actually in the ATF (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms) hiring process right now,” Manning said. “Having a private investigator license is definitely a good thing to have on a resume.”

Manning was in the U.S. Air Force for six years and part of the military police and security forces. After leaving the service, the first jobs he performed were executive protection and a bodyguard for “excessively wealthy clientele.” With this experience, he wanted to find an occupation that aligned with his previous work, which was how he became interested in becoming a private investigator.

Although Manning enjoys working as a private investigator, he urges those interested in pursuing the career path to reconsider, saying that the job often requires long, grueling hours shadowing people around.

“You have to figure out if that’s the kind of person you want to be,” he said. “Your life becomes that of a professional secret keeper.”

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