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Becoming a Police Detective

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I wanna be a detective!

That's something a police sergeant or lieutenant hears from every street cop.  It seems few want to spend their career pushing a black and white around their beat.  While working the streets is a great job, eventually you come a point that you want to do something else.  Perhaps, you want to be a detective. Here's some good advice on getting a detective spot.


 Education is the best part-time job

You're career is under your control.  If it is drifting it is because you are letting it drift. So, take the wheel.  A great first step is to get an undergraduate degree.  Take a look at my article "Why a Degree in Criminal Justice?"  Then, consider, an interview panel doesn't care what courses you took.  They aren't going to ask you about your undergraduate class in criminological theory.  However, they are going to know, and you are going to tell them that an undergraduate degree says:


1.         You can work independently.

2.         You can work in groups.

3.         You can manage competing resources.

4.         You can manage a long term plan.

5.         You are capable of research

6.         You can read and write at the college level.

7.         You were exposed to different cultures


Talk to everybody

 Doesn't that sound like a first class detective?  While you are working on your undergraduate degree work on your skills as a police officer.  About halfway through my probation on the department I responded to a homicide scene.  A man had been stabbed to death on a street corner.  Like the typical blue suit, I put the tape up, started the log and called the detectives.  They came and investigated.  Even though it happened in broad daylight no one saw a thing.


The detectives detected and then went away.  I spent the next few weeks going back to that street corner.  There were several retired men who hung out nearby.  Even though I was a much younger and a different race, I talked to them everyday.  We chatted about boxing, cars and other stuff.  I knew they knew who did the murder.  After several weeks of chatting I asked the question.  One of the men said, Officer, if I knew, Id tell you.  He emphasized the you.  Another man said, You would?   The second man told me everything.  In 24 hours, the suspect and the weapon were in custody.  The point is that detective work is about talking to people.  Hone your skills now.


Start detecting now

Go into the detective squad bay and ask for some work!  Ask them if there is a witness you can interview during your shift or something simple you can do.  At first they will have you running down supplemental property reports between radio calls.  But, after a while they will give you very cool stuff to do.  And, they will remember.  You are putting in your time, learning the ropes and making contacts.  If you work graveyards, before you go home, go ask. 


Work Traffic

Think about working traffic.  Traffic investigations are relatively unknown fast-track to detectives.  Every traffic accident is a crime scene.  You recover evidence, interview witness, make diagrams, draw conclusions, etc.  But, unlike your typical patrol investigation, a traffic investigation is often handled from crime scene to filing by the traffic cop.  And, a fatal traffic accident is a potential homicide.  Where else can you get homicide experience working in uniform?


So, you wanna be a detective?  You can, but you have to work for it.

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