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T.O.P.S Methods and Protocols

While T.O.P.S investigators and their clients always look forward to the review of collected evidence, a consistently applied set of methodologies is actually the most important part of any investigation, for it assures clients that an unbiased, honest and reliable technical process for gathering and interpreting evidence has been used and that this process can be repeated to reproduce the results, if needed.  The following, therefore, provide an overview of the principles applied in a PPI investigation, including a current inventory of our equipment and tools; a comprehensive delineation of the protocols we follow during an on-site investigation; and a detailed account of our code of ethics.

   EQUIPMENT
All T.O.P.S equipment is deployed in one of two ways:  in an assistive capacity, to gather and record evidence; or in an analytical capacity, to evaluate and assess evidence.  The term "Equipment" is here used broadly to describe:
        •        computers, computer applications and data cables
        •        environmental monitoring devices
        •        media recording devices and cables
        •        surveillance and communication devices
        •        miscellaneous tools and peripheral devices
 
The Ozarks Paranormal Society evaluates and authorizes beforehand any equipment used on its investigations.  However, as is typical of not-for-profit organizations, members are largely responsible for supplying and maintaining their own equipment. The following general inventory of our resources is ever changing and expanding, making T.O.P.S one of the better equipped paranormal investigation groups in the mid west United States.  Additional data and specs about T.O.P.S primary investigation equipment can be found on our website in "Equipment."
 
1.    Environmental Monitoring Devices
 •   AC Field Detectors
 •   Ambient temperature room thermometers
 •   Anemometers
 •   Carbon Monoxide Detectors
 •   EMF Detectors (a.k.a. Electromagnetic Field Testers) and related equipment
 •   Geiger Counters
 •   Handheld Thermometers
 •   Ion Generator
 •   K-II Meters
 •   Temperature Data Loggers
 •   Thermocouple Thermometers
 •   Ambient temperature room thermometers

2.    Media Recording Devices and Cables
 •   DVR Multi-Channel Security Systems (monitors, Hi-Res DVR cameras, cables)
 •   Camcorders (digital and Hi-8 video recorders with infrared systems)
 •   Handheld Digital Audio Recorders
 •   Still Shot Digital Cameras and Camera Cables

3.    Surveillance and Communication Devices and Cables
 •   2-Way Communication Radios

4.    Miscellaneous Tools
 •   flashlights
 •   headlamps
  •   portable black-lights
 •   utility cords
 •   camera tripods

5.    Computers, Computer Applications and Data Cables
Members individually own, operate and, when possible, convey their own personal computers for collection, recording and analysis of evidence, as well as utilize a variety of specialized applications and programs to record evidence, and to evaluate it using a uniform set of standards and protocols.

6.    Thinking Tools
 •   assiduous use of our five senses to monitor our environment
 •   careful and methodical note-taking
 •   critical thinking
 •   deductive and inductive reasoning skills
 •   fairness and open-mindedness to other interpretations
 •   objective and rationale perspective
 •   peer review
 •   scientific method
 •   thorough going analysis of evidence

 


II

INVESTIGATIVE PROCEDURES
All cases undertaken by The Ozarks Paranormal Society follow procedural steps that help to guarantee each investigation to be thorough, reliable and credible.  Irregularities in the procedure may result in some evidence being discredited, even if the evidence is persuasive.

Synopsis:  The process begins with an initial interview between T.O.P.S and the client, wherein the client provides information and background to tailor the needs of the investigation; afterward, further research about the venue is conducted and a formal investigation is arranged with the client.  When the investigation at the venue is completed, a suitable period of time is allowed for the analysis of any evidence that may have been acquired during the formal investigation.  A meeting of T.O.P.S members is called to order so that the evidence can be discussed and debated.  Finally, a meeting or a conference call is arranged with the client to perform a "Reveal":  a presentation of the evidence and its interpretation, and an invitation to assist the client further by answering questions or referring the client to other independent services (solely at the client's request).

Here following is a more detailed chronology of our procedures and their underlying rationale.

1.    Pre-Planning and Brainstorming
In the pre-investigation stage, a Scheduler is responsible for researching and contacting potential Type I venues in hopes of organizing a formal investigation.  Meanwhile, our Publicist solicits advertising space in newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals throughout Missouri that generate interest in our services. Through these, or through our website, private clients request our services; these requests will in turn be reviewed by T.O.P.S members and accepted or rejected for a Type II investigation case.

2.    Pre-Research
Our Research Librarian and, if needed, other T.O.P.S members will search through public records, articles and data bases that will help to create a basic historical backdrop to the case.  This will include biographical details of historically pertinent individuals, as well as details of events connected to the venue and reported in newspapers.

3    Pre-Investigation
Members of T.O.P.S will either volunteer or be appointed the task of contacting the client for a preliminary interview about the paranormal history of the venue, personal paranormal experiences at the venue, and practical and logistical considerations for designing the investigation to accommodate equipment setup and certain investigation techniques.

4.   Formal Interviews
Upon arriving at the venue, an Interviewer conducts additional interviews with the client and other relevant witnesses, such as neighbors, tenants, customers and relatives, about their paranormal experiences at the venue.  This permits some useful assessment, too, of the client's needs and wishes for the investigation that will direct T.O.P.S follow-up recommendations. The researcher should also interview any other witnesses such as locals who also may be able to give supportive information about the venue.

5.    Equipment Set-Up and Preliminary Walkthroughs
While formal interviews are being conducted, Team Leaders will direct other team members and investigators in the setup of surveillance equipment and DVR units, stationary audio recording devices, and preliminary walkthroughs of the venue with the client to take note of important architectural or physical features (potentially high EMF sources, draft sources, sound resonators, etc.) and the locations of especial interest for the formal walkthrough.

6.    Team Assignments
Team leaders will announce the organization for the formal walkthroughs of the venue, which, depending on the size of the venue, may require breaking down into smaller teams or staggering the walkthroughs.

7.    Walkthroughs
Most of the investigation's evidence will be either experienced or recorded during the formal walkthrough, during which time members enlist the use of night vision video cameras, audio recorders, and portable environmental monitoring devices.  In a systematic and carefully controlled effort to solicit responses from potential spirit entities, team members introduce themselves, pose questions, invite interaction and make every possible attempt to present themselves as well meaning and friendly researchers wanting contact and signs of the unseen presence.

8.    Vigils
After these experiments are completed, Team Leaders may elect to appoint one or more team members to hold a vigil in selected areas of the venue with higher probability for paranormal experience.  During the vigil, other formal walkthroughs of the venue may be taking place.

9.    Conclusion of the Formal Investigation
At the end of the formal investigation team leaders and other members will cooperatively break down equipment and set-ups, return the venue in the condition in which it was found, and pack equipment and supplies into the vehicles for departure.  Team leaders will meet with the client for a final word of thanks and support before departing.

10.   Analysis of Evidence
Depending on the amount of evidence gathered from the investigation, a period of two to three weeks may be required to analyze and evaluate the data.  A meeting of T.O.P.S is convened to afford participating members an opportunity to present the most interesting evidence they have collected.  After the evidence has been thoroughly examined by T.O.P.S Team Leaders, a report of the investigation will be drafted and the general evidence will be parsed to support T.O.P.S conclusions at the Reveal.

11.    The Reveal
In most cases, especially for long-distance investigations, the report is provided in one or both of the following ways:  in a secure, on-line format, where the client may download a PDF of the report, as well as any evidence provided as on-line media; on a DVD ROM mailed to the client and containing all relevant media, data, and reports.  However, a meeting may be arranged with client in person or by teleconference to present any important evidence that supports or discounts the probability of a haunting.  One of several conclusions are presented:


unserviceable

In some instances, the conditions of a investigation may become exceptionally hazardous to the investigators, or the client's agendas may suddenly be incompatible with those of T.O.P.S.  Under these circumstances, an investigation may be canceled beforehand or, at the discretion of a T.O.P.S Team Leader, aborted at the site, and the case will be closed as "unserviceable."

 
 
explained
 
enough evidence has been amassed to offer a rationale and ordinary explanation to the alleged paranormal experiences of the client; no follow-up investigation will be required.

 

not haunted

the investigation has not yielded sufficient or compelling enough evidence to suggest that a haunting is taking place; the Case Background may imply otherwise, but the eyewitness testimony of investigators and media evidence they collected during T.O.P.S investigation produced no reliable results.

 

unexplained

insufficient evidence has been obtained to make a conclusion in denial of, or in support of, a haunting, though some degree of inexplicable activity might be conceded

 

inconclusive

sufficient evidence has been obtained, but analysis is inconclusive or disputed among the investigators; a conclusion, therefore, cannot be determined.

 

haunted

evidence is deemed sufficient and persuasive enough to support the probable conclusion that the client's experiences are of a focused paranormal nature.  (Note:  This determination is the least likely conclusion.)


The client is then presented with copies of the evidence and the report and, if applicable, a list of resources to assist the client in taking the next step, should one be desired by the client. 

 

 


III


INVESTIGATION PROTOCOLS

 

Protocols are a set of policies dictating behaviors or responses appropriate for T.O.P.S members while involved in an investigation.    In some cases these protocols are intended to keep members from a situation that may be physically and emotionally compromising; however, a majority of the protocols are designed to safeguard the investigative process and the evidence from tampering, misdiagnosis, or mishandling.  A consistently observed set of protocols protects the reputation of the organization, the integrity of its members, and, ultimately, the credibility of the investigation itself.  The investigative protocols of The Ozarks Paranormal Society fall into four categories:
        behavior while on investigations
        equipment use
        safety, legality and arbitration
        collegiality

 

1.    Behavior while on investigations
Manners:    Courtesy and civility are expected at all times on an investigation, both in collegial interaction and client interaction.  Though a sense of humor is often helpful in nervous circumstances, raucous, loud or lewd behaviors dishonor the field of paranormal research and disgrace the organization. Investigators, therefore, should always behave in a manner that positively represents The Ozarks Paranormal Society to the client.  In attire, an investigator should wear appropriate and comfortable dark clothing.  The wearing of cologne, perfume, and other strong essences should be avoided, as these not only are bothersome to others but also could preclude olfactory evidence from being properly detected.  Similarly, T.O.P.S members should not smoke, drink or eat during an investigative procedure.  (See "Sobriety and readiness" below.)

Serious intent:    Investigators should treat the potentially paranormal environment with sanctity and remain respectful in addressing possible spirit entities.  Furthermore, all investigators should give their own investigative procedures their full attention and not permit distracting behaviors or conversations to divert them from their purpose. All portable media devices accompanying the investigator should be used for the purpose of the investigation, and not as a form of entertainment.

Convictions:    Unless invited to do so by the client, investigators should refrain from mentioning their ideological, religious or political philosophies while on a formal investigation.  Under no circumstances should an investigator proselytize or assume an attitude that might be interpreted by the client as proselytizing.

Respect for private property:    The venue which is opened to the investigation should be treated with utter respect; investigators should offer as discreet a presence in the client's environment (especially if it is a private residence), and should always leave the venue in the same condition in which it was found.  They should not touch personal belongings unless invited to do so by the client, nor enter into unfamiliar areas of the venue unless the client has given express permission to do so.  Additionally, they should always receive permission from the client to smoke on the premises or walk across surfaces in the home wearing shoes.

Sobriety and readiness:    Alcohol and other substances that could impair judgment should be avoided if possible. Investigators should record into the log the use of prescription drugs whose side effects or interactions with other drugs could potentially alter their perceptions, their judgment, their motor skills, or their behavior.  An investigator may on occasion share an alcoholic beverage with the client as a friendly gesture, but this should not be taken as enticement to overindulgence.  An investigator should also make an attempt to arrive at the investigation feeling rested, sated from hunger, and slaked from thirst, since a depleted physical state will also impair judgment and performance.  On longer investigations, it is recommended that the investigator bring a snack to consume during a designated break.

Mood:    Investigators should carefully evaluate their own emotional state if it will impact their performance on an investigation.  Entering into an investigation predisposed to gloominess or anger may make for a less effective case as well as an unpleasant experience for others, especially if the subject of the investigator's mood cannot be broached and discussed.
 
 
2.  Equipment Use

Photographic apparatus:    Since most investigators bring along their own equipment on investigations, the suggestion to treat equipment with all due care is usually a moot point.  However, the use of flash photography in a dark setting can be inconvenient, painful, or dangerous if colleagues are not forewarned; investigators should announce with prudent clarity an impending flash.  Care should also be taken to prevent the camera strap or a finger from eclipsing the lens.  Pictures should not be taken in drizzly, snowy or rainy conditions, or in environments where particulate matter is airborne.  In the use of cameras requiring the loading of film, measures should be taken not to expose the film to light sources or contamination.  Investigators should maintain a meticulous file of film negatives to corroborate any paranormal evidence that appears in a photograph.  Camera equipment should undergo regular maintenance to prevent camera-related artifacts and other faults of the technical apparatus from appearing on the photograph.

Audio recorders:    Many a promising Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) ends up having to be summarily dismissed after painstaking measures are taken to evaluate it, simply because appropriate protocols were not observed on the investigation.  Investigators should allow a recording device to run for a period of time in an environment other than an investigation, in order to assess whether the equipment produces any anomalous sounds that might be misinterpreted later as EVP.    If possible, they should carry the recorder in a manner that will not produce undue noise.  If placing a recorder in a stationary position, care should be taken that it is free from reverberation and vibration, which will ensure a more reliable recording.  Investigators should note the day, time and place that a recording begins, including the room or area at the venue.  Before beginning the investigation, investigators should obtain voice samples and base recordings of sounds in the venue and its environment, and identify these sounds by naming them.  During a formal investigation, participants should speak using a clear voice and never whisper!  If, for any reason, they must alter their voices, cough, eruct, sniffle, wheeze, or pop a hip joint, they should make a note of it the recording.  For any anomalous sound that occurs, mention should be made of it, even if it easily explained.  Although such a sound may seem self-evident at the time, it could be misinterpreted later as something more significant.  The number of participants in an investigative group should be limited so that potential EVP will not be talked over or eclipsed by ambient noise, shuffling feet, and so forth.  All participants should wear clothing that is comfortable but does not shush (avoiding, for example, nylon pants) or clatter or make other noises.  Soft sole shoes such as tennis or jogging shoes should be worn in order to cut down on loud footfalls and to make the walkthrough more comfortable.  If at all possible or practical, the client and other individuals in attendance of the investigation should be encouraged to observe these protocols as well.

Video cameras:    Many of the same common sense rules in the use of still-shot photographic equipment apply to the use of video cameras and camcorders.  However, since this device records, both, vision and sound, all of the same care observed in the use of audio recorders applies as well.  Additionally, most camcorders with night vision filters require the user to conduct the walkthrough while staring into a viewfinder.  As a precaution, colleagues should be vigilant for any irregularity in the walkway, such as an object, a step, or a change in the gradient of the floor, to safeguard the user from injury and equipment damage.

Batteries:    Investigators should always carry an ample supply of batteries, even if they have replaced the batteries in their equipment prior to the investigation.  Anomalous battery drains are common enough on investigations to have become indicators, in and of themselves, of paranormal activity.


Two-Way Radios:    All investigators with two-way radios must use equipment that operates according to FCC guidelines within the unlicensed spectrum, and communicate using the accepted Push-To-Talk (PTT) protocols of mobile telephony.  Two-way communication during a formal walkthrough on investigation should be for essential use only.

Mobile and Cellular Phones:    Although the improved functionality of new cellular phones, such as still-shot image capture, gives this technology a more legitimate role on paranormal investigations, its convenience should be weighed against its technical shortcomings that make proper still-shot cameras preferred.  All applicable protocols used with similar devices should be observed while using the cellular phone, as well.  If a cell phone does accompany an investigator on an investigation, it should be set to a silent mode unless otherwise agreed upon by the investigation team.

Equipment cleanliness and maintenance:    T.O.P.S team members should conduct regular maintenance checks of equipment to guarantee reliable evidence and make sure that power cables and utility cords are in safe operating condition.  The cleanliness of equipment is also a safety factor; investigators should pay special attention to cords that have been stored in environments where they could be easily soiled, since this could eventually damage carpets, fabric and/or floors at the venue.


Power:    Although most clients readily consent, investigators should nonetheless ask for permission to use power outlets at the venue, and to be certain that equipment power requirements do not exceed the minimum safe capacity of the venue's power source.  Investigators are urged to carry a plentiful supply of back-up batteries for their devices.

 
3.    Safety, Legality, and Arbitration
 
Waivers:    T.O.P.S members sign any reasonable waiver presented by the client.  We bear in mind, many clients request paranormal services because of their feeling of vulnerability in their own homes.  In addition to the legal implications of a standard waiver, such documents give the client a measure of psychological comfort.

Affidavits:    Investigators should carry official I.D. (driver's license, passport, etc.) in the event that authorities detain them in a public venue.  When necessary, clients may be requested to provide proof (deeds, credentials, or other documents) of their legal authority to permit an investigation at the venue.

Lawful Activity:    In public venues, investigators must take care at all times not to deface, destroy or vandalize public property, even if motivated to do so in the interest of persuasive evidence.  Hours of operation should be observed as posted.  Signage alerting the public of danger, policies or ordinances should always be heeded.  T.O.P.S members should never carry nor agree to use illicit substances or objects while on an investigation.

Peril:    Investigators should take precautions not to enter into physically or socially perilous environments, even if they are within the client's purview.  On a formal T.O.P.S investigation, all members must investigate in teams of at least two, to protect each other and to corroborate one another's experiences.  In the event that an investigation becomes dangerous or one or more investigators becomes fearful, all investigators should leave in as calm and professional a manner as possible, securing the safety of individuals first, and the security of equipment secondarily.  No investigator should be forced or pressured to enter into what he or she perceives to be a perilous environment.

Monitoring:    At least one individual should be assigned as a monitor of the equipment and the environment, not only to safeguard T.O.P.S devices in public venues from theft, vandalism and tampering, but to log events and noises that might influence the evidence captured by investigators inside the venue.  In the event that the monitor must leave the post temporarily, a Team Leader should be contacted to make the monitor's whereabouts and reasons known.  If the monitor must withdraw for an extended period of time, a Team Leader will appoint a substitute monitor in the interim.

Conflict Resolution: All disputes between the client and T.O.P.S over investigative procedures and protocols should be arbitrated by a Team Leader.  No one subordinate to a Team Leader should attempt to mediate a dispute with a client while on investigation.  Under no circumstances should a T.O.P.S member express outrage or aggression, should a conflict occur.  In the event that a resolution to the conflict cannot be reached, a Team Leader may elect to withdraw the investigation in an orderly, non-adversarial manner and schedule a meeting with the client to arbitrate and resolve the conflict.  In such circumstances, a rescheduling of the investigation will be solely at the discretion of the client.

 
4.    Collegiality
 
Intolerance:    T.O.P.S members will not discriminate against clients or other members of T.O.P.S based on race, culture, creed, gender, age, sexual orientation, physiognomy, disability, or ideology.

Fraternization:    Members will refrain from ostentatious displays of familiarity, affection or sexual intimacy with other members, clients or related individuals while participating in an investigation.

Harassment:    Members of T.O.P.S will safeguard their colleagues from intrusion, threats and harassment, and will report these if witnessed between or among other colleagues, or between or among colleagues and clients.

Loyalty:    When representing The Ozarks Paranormal Society to the public, members will display comity and loyalty and uphold T.O.P.S protocols, principles, and values.
 


IV

ETHICAL ISSUES

While protocols help T.O.P.S to monitor the investigation as a safe and reliable process, other ethical issues are of concern insofar as they affect the way the organization (or one or more of its members) interacts with the client, acts upon the evidence, or biases the results.  Membership to The Ozarks Paranormal Society is a carefully screened process.  Clients, however, may feel further assured by the fact that T.O.P.S members take an oath to uphold and abide by strict ethical standards during all phases of an investigation.

 

Paranormal Investigator's Code of Ethics

Physics before Metaphysics: members pledge to use the scientific method above all others in the collection, examination and analysis of data and evidence.

Substance Over Shadow: investigators will place greater value on the process of inquiry and reasoning than on their personal expression of faith, their belief system, their spiritual philosophy, or an avowed absence of these.

The Living before The Dead: members will at all times regard the needs and concerns of clients and colleagues as a greater priority than all other concerns of research and investigative practices.

Credibility and Character: members at all times during an investigation will safeguard the credibility of the organization by representing it with the highest standards of honesty, integrity and professionalism.

Courtesy and Custom: while participating in any investigation, members will show sensitivity and respect for diversity in the client's culture, behaviors, ideologies, policies, rules, customs and personal wishes.

Law and Order:  members will never compromise the investigation, the client or the organization by flouting or bending the laws of a state or a community.

Comity and Compassion:  members will demonstrate collegiality with other team members and will respect the claims, doubts, concerns, fears and wishes of any client or other individual relevant to an investigation.

Privacy and Propriety:  investigators will safeguard the confidentiality of all personal information, sensitive or otherwise, divulged by colleagues, clients, and relevant witnesses.

Currency and Professionalism:  investigators will contribute meaningfully to the advancement of paranormal research by remaining current in the field and applying that knowledge to the methodologies of investigation and evidence assessment.

Knowledge Before Profit:  members will pledge to disclose fully any significant discoveries germane to the field of paranormal research, and to refuse to profit financially either by publishing, or preventing from publication, such discoveries.

Ownership of Evidence:  All evidence collected by any team member of The Ozarks Paranormal Society under the guise of The Ozarks Paranormal Society becomes the sole property of the organization whether collected on the individuals or the the teams collective equipment.

1.    Physics before Metaphysics

In an effort to investigate paranormal occurrences with as much objectivity and skeptical inquiry as possible, T.O.P.S members must value the scientific method as more useful to the evaluation of phenomena than more unorthodox metaphysical methods. Consequently, any investigative technique that cannot profit from the practical deployment of scientific tools and technologies must be rejected.  Such techniques include (but are not limited to) the use of séances, psychic mediums, past life regressions, remote viewing, dowsing rods, table tipping, ouija boards, numerology, tarot cards, the I Ching, the Kabbalah, and so on.  Although we cannot endorse metaphysical methods of paranormal investigation, if the client prefers them to the methods used by T.O.P.S, we can cheerfully recommend such services and withdraw our own.  We ask, however, that clients understand the nature of our services beforehand, in the interest of avoiding misunderstanding.
 
 
2.    Reason over Religion

We respect a client's religious or philosophical belief, including the absence of these, but we also understand how paranormal phenomena may be regarded through the filter of these ideologies and begin to take on the cultural identity of them. (Demons and angels are an apt example of how paranormal phenomena can take on the personae found in the mythology of certain religions.)  Of course, this does not preclude T.O.P.S members from having deeply spiritual lives.  Furthermore, spirituality may play a central role in the way that our members empathize and support the client effectively.  However, in the pursuit of truth and in respect to an objective investigation, all our members must value logic, intellect and critical thinking as the primary modes by which paranormal phenomena are recorded and evaluated.
 
 
3.    The Living Before the Dead

One of T.O.P.S most important goals is to gather credible evidence of a post-mortal existence that will stand up to careful scrutiny and rigorous debunking.  Nonetheless, our single greatest priority is life, and the concerns of the living take precedence over all else.  In particular, the needs of the client are paramount to our operation.  In consequence, we will not place the investigation of paranormal phenomena over the needs and concerns of the client, nor will we use investigative methods that in any way compromise the client or the client's home (or other venue).

 
4.    Credibility and Character

Serious-minded paranormal investigators and paranormal societies like T.O.P.S have been the subject of derision for centuries, withstanding attacks from religious communities that regard our goals as heretical and enduring the barbs of the science community which considers our methods of inquiry untenable.  While we vociferously contradict these claims, we are sensitive to the fact that our actions and our attitudes represent an entire community of unorthodox thinkers, and in consequence we must protect the credibility of our organization and our research methods by maintaining a professional ethos at all times.  While the objectives of our organization may not be credible to some, we nonetheless put great stock in them and believe the integrity of our members will confer a degree of credibility as well.

 
5.    Courtesy and Custom

The gamut of paranormal experiences runs across lines of race, religion, politics, age, gender, sexual orientation, culture, disability, and other physical and ideological distinctions upon which we heap a sum of grave importance in the world of the living.  Death, it seems, is not only the great equalizer; it is the universal experience that all of us share and which cancels our differences.  Therefore, T.O.P.S members swear to uphold tolerance and celebrate diversity in their interaction with one another and with the client.

 
6.    Law and Order

Members will not jeopardize our organization nor compromise the client by engaging in illegal activities or proscriptive behaviors while participating in an investigation.  Nor can T.O.P.S or any one of its members honor the request of a client if it breaks the law or is patently unethical.

 
7.     Comity and Compassion

In the same spirit with which T.O.P.S members guarantee their investigations to be conducted legally and ethically, they respect the sanctity of the bonds of trust and loyal friendship.  While members easily demonstrate these in their interaction with other T.O.P.S members, they also commit themselves to extending that trust, friendship and support to the client, or to anyone else within the sphere of the client during an investigation, by respecting the motives which, in most cases, influenced the client to contact T.O.P.S for assistance in the first place.

 
8.    Privacy and Propriety

While the overarching objective of our organization is to bring to light as much credible evidence of the paranormal and make it publicly available, we understand and respect the confidentiality of any personal information entrusted to us by the clients.  Members will not divulge the identity, the location, or any other personal information that might compromise the client or other relevant witnesses involved in an investigation.  This extends to the protocols used to name document and evidence files connected to the client's case.  Furthermore, members will not compromise the security of other T.O.P.S members in such a manner.  No evidence from the case will be posted unless permission from the client is first secured.  Furthermore, the client may reserve the right to change the status of such information and evidence at any time.

 
9.    Currency and Professionalism

The Ozarks Paranormal Society utilizes technology and equipment that are state of the art, since improvement to the technology generally implies improvement to investigative techniques and better evidence.  By the same token, investigators pledge to keep themselves current and knowledgeable in the field of paranormal research, and to demonstrate that currency by conducting investigations with the competent use of technology, the rationale use of applied methodologies, and the objective spirit of inquiry.  On this latter point, a certain degree of professionalism and pride will encourage our members to remain dispassionately calm during an investigation, regardless of the circumstances.  However, in the event that members, for whatever reason, are in doubt as to the security of an investigation, it will be considered a show of professionalism as well to withdraw according to the specific protocols.
 
 
10.    Knowledge Before Profit

In respect for the not-for-profit status of our organization, T.O.P.S volunteers will not accept reimbursement for any services rendered if they are directly relevant to an investigation.  (Donations to assist with the costs of travel and lodging for out-of-town and overnight investigations are greatly appreciated, however.)  Furthermore, members promise to make every effort 1) to contribute to the broader field of paranormal research; 2) to publish with full disclosure any significant discovery or evidence obtained while on a T.O.P.S investigation (excepting any personal or sensitive information that might compromise the client); 3) and to act without the expectation of monetary profit.  Additionally, no T.O.P.S member will withhold, suppress or destroy evidence under the enticement of monetary gain.
 

11.    Ownership of Evidence

Evidence gathered on T.O.P.S investigations becomes ownership and copyrighted by The Ozarks Paranormal Society. All evidence and information gathered is held in confidence within the organization unless agreed with the client. All evidence collected by any team member of The Ozarks Paranormal Society under the guise of The Ozarks Paranormal Society becomes the sole property of the organization whether collected on the individuals or the the teams collective equipment.

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