A detective, sometimes called a criminal investigator, usually works with a law enforcement agency. They are tasked with investigating felonies such as burglary, homicide, and fraud (sometimes misdemeanors). Detectives will collect the facts and evidence surrounding a case they have been assigned and will interview witnesses and suspects, examine records involved with a case, and observe potential suspects during the course of their investigation.
All detectives start their careers as police officers and thus must go through the same hiring and training process that police officers go through. To pursue a career in law enforcement you must first meet several requirements. You must be at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the policy of the department you’re applying to. You must have a clean criminal record. Although the agency may deal with candidates who have committed misdemeanors on a case by case basis, committing a felony in the past automatically disqualifies you as a candidate. You must be a U.S. citizen.
You must have at least a high school diploma. Although the minimal requirement in some agencies may be a high school diploma, some agencies will look favorably upon candidates who have a college degree. In the case of candidates wishing to become detectives, their employers may require that they possess a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. After a candidate submits an application to a law enforcement agency, the hiring process begins. During the hiring process, candidates are subjected to all sorts of examinations and tests. Candidates must pass a:
- Lie detector test
- Psychological evaluation
- Drug test
- Physical fitness test
- Civil service test
These are required before they can move on to the next step in the hiring process.
Academy And Examination
Before a candidate enters the police academy, they must take and pass the law enforcement entrance exam. The contents of this exam will vary from one police academy to another police academy and from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction, but once a candidate has passed the exam he will be admitted into the police academy where he will receive training essential for the job. Training will last between 19 weeks to six months.
During that time, candidates will learn about:
- Self-defense techniques
- State and local law
- Constitutional law
- Civil rights
- Police ethics
- How to properly handle a firearm
- And much more…
Candidates will also be whipped into peak physical condition through physical training.
After candidates have completed their training and have graduated from the police academy, they’ll be given on the job training. On average this training lasts about eight weeks. During this time, a trainee will accompany a training officer on his routine patrols in different areas of the jurisdiction. To climb the ranks and become a detective police officers must receive promotions. New officers must wait a period of time before they can receive the promotion necessary to become a detective.
This period varies from agency to agency, but many agencies require that their officers work for at least three years before they can be promoted to the rank of detective. Officers who are promoted to the rank of detective are chosen from a list of individuals who are up for promotion, and the criteria used to decide whether or not an officer is promoted are the individual’s position on a promotion list, scores on agency exams, and his or her performance as a police officer. In the end, it can take 3-5 years to become a detective.