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Police Detective Career: Information and Issues


The police detective career is very dynamic and demanding, especially the sections of criminal investigations such as homicide and theft. The job description includes investigations, traffic control, enforcement of state and local law, writing citations, arresting unlawful violators of law, and most importantly writing reports on a daily basis. An individual interested in perusing the career must have at least a high school diploma and a passion for justice.

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The hiring process is very competitive and requires special skills and talent in observing the finer details. The salary range for career is between $4,000 and $30,000, depending on level of service in the policy division of the criminal justice system. In order to get a promotion, the success rate must be above 80% of all cases handled. The career in policing is time consuming since an officer can be summoned for duty at any time. At the police stations, there are senior managers who have the role of planning daily policing activities and managing the challenges police officers experience in their line of duty.


The department of police detective in any policing community is very dynamic and discovery oriented since officers in this field have to devise ways of defeating criminal activities. Specifically, the selection, hiring, and promotion processes for any typical police detective is very detailed since the job card requires the most qualified police officer. The training process is prolonged and there are guidelines that facilitate the transition from recruitment into actual duties. The requirements for joining this career include physical fitness, high school diploma certificate, high critical thinking skills, and availability for service. This paper will review the job card, requirements, remuneration, promotion, and physical work environment of a police detective.

Police detective job

The job title of a police detective is very involving since it requires technical skills in criminal investigation. Generally, a police detective performs specialized duties and has the sole mandate of generating investigative reports in liaison with other enforcement agencies. The specialized roles of a police detective are to “conduct narcotics investigations, perform surveillance and establish and maintain contacts with informants; investigate gang related crimes; respond to and investigate scenes of crimes such as homicide, theft, robbery, auto theft, illegal sex related activities; and, crimes committed by juveniles” (Beggs & Davies, 2009, p. 29).

Education and training requirements

In order to qualify for recruitment as a police detective, the candidate must have a minimum academic qualification of high school diploma or an equivalent of the same. Besides, the candidates must be at least twenty one years of age with a clean criminal record. The main training requirements for this post include possession of critical skills such as “strong communication skills, good judgment, leadership, and organization skills” (Police Science and Law Enforcement, 2015, par. 8) since the job description involves application of analytical skills and ability to make rational judgments in crisis. In specialized forces, an additional degree in criminal justice may be an added advantage for a potential candidate as was my case.


The first qualification is possession of at least a high school diploma education. Besides, the potential candidate must have citizenship of the country he or she wants to serve as a detective. In most countries across the globe, a potential candidate for the post of a police detective should have a valid driving license with very minimal past driving offenses. It is necessary for the candidate to have tax compliance certification, good conduct certificate, and a recommendation letter from a least two division of the local authority (Peak, 2009).

Hiring process

The hiring process begins by advertisement of available police detective positions in the local dailies. An interested candidate who meets the minimum requirements may send an application alongside his or her curriculum vitae addressed to the recruiting institution. After short listing, the successful candidates are invited for series of interviews on education requirement, health accreditation, and physical fitness test.

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After this point, the successful candidates are invited into the detective school to undergo job preparation. The “recruits are required to participate in various class-related law enforcement courses and to pass several physical examinations. Courses cover areas involving state and local laws, police ethics, and civil rights” (Los Angeles Police Department, 2015, par. 9). The training process involves testing of physical skills, academic prowess, and personal working skills.

Each candidate must pass all these tests in order to graduate from the detective school as a qualified police detective. After completion of the training, the detective graduates are deployed to different police departments on a training basis for at least six months before being commissioned as a qualified police detective.


The duties and responsibilities of a police detective are investigating crimes, generating reports, and liaising with other policing units in the process of criminal investigation and apprehension. Apart from criminal investigations, a police detective may also perform “court liaison functions, provide electronic equipment expertise to conduct surveillance and polygraph examinations, investigate applicants and businesses who have applied for Police Commission permits to conduct business, investigate child abuse cases, and conduct investigations of crimes committed by gangs of foreign origin” (Gottschalk, 2010, p. 27).

In addition, a police detective may perform duties such offering professional leadership in case profiling, generation of reports, and communicating information along the chain of command for maximum effectiveness of the police detective department.

Salary range (Local and national)

The salary range of police detectives depends on the rank of each detective, duties assigned, and level of operations. The first rank in detective field is detective 1 followed by detective 2 and detective 3. In the field of criminal investigations, detective 3 has the highest rank and attracts the highest remuneration packages. On the other hand, detective 1 has the lowest rank and lowest compensation package since the responsibilities at this level. At the local level, the salary range for police detectives is $3,000 to $15,000. At national level, the salary range for police detective is $4,000 to $30,000.

Promotion requirements

In order to qualify for promotion from detective 1 to detective 2, there must be consistency in handling different criminal cases as expected. Besides, the success rate should be above 80% of all cases assigned to an office. In addition, the officer must display consistency, team work, and high moral standards within the policing regulation policies. In most cases, the aspect of experience is also considered, especially when transitioning from detective 2 to detective 3 ranks (Peak, 2009). Being a police officer in rank 1, I was subjected to more than 8 months training in criminal investigation and writing citations.

Working conditions (shifts hours)

Since detective work in a dynamic environment, work hours always stretch past the expected shifts. Apparently, “the majority of police detectives work on a full-time basis, although paid overtime is common. Detectives work in shifts 24 hours a day, and younger members of the team will likely work more night shifts in the beginning” (Police Science and Law Enforcement, 2015, par. 6). Each shift lasts for eight hours although it may stretch to more than 20 hours depending on the quantity of work available. The shifts run concurrently, especially in the criminal investigation duties.

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Physical requirement

In order to qualify as police detective, the candidate must be physically fit with a height of at least five feet. The candidate must have clean health record from accredited medical facility. The candidate must have minimal skin breakage marks, good eye sight, perfect hearing ability, and good body weight. In addition, the candidate must pass mental fitness examination in order to get a clean bill of health on physical fitness (Peak, 2009).

Detective welfare and motivation

Police station managers are empowered by the constitution to perform the role of prefects and offer leadership solutions upon consultation with one another. To control group behavior, desirable leadership attributes are necessary. Therefore, “actions are most often attributed to four causes: effort and ability (both internal and dispositional causes), luck, and task difficulty (both external and situational causes” (Beggs and Davies, 2009, p. 22).

Effective police station behavior system is acquired through creativity inspiration in communication systems that senior and junior officers use in encoding and decoding information from the public and within themselves. When successfully carried out, redundancy and emotional strains are kept at bay, as constant interaction is a means of boosting confidence and personality which is a recipe for good law enforcement (Beggs & Davies, 2009). This is summarized in the diagram below.

Detective welfare and motivation

From the above figure, it is important to establish the most appropriate police management strategies to ensure that law enforcement is within the confines of the constitution and commands support from the public. Besides, effective policing welfare system motivates police officers to perform optimally with minimal supervision.

Rules governing career in policing

Carter is critical and objective in analyzing types of abuse of authority (Peak 2009), which is against the policing service. The first typology identified is the use of excessive force or physical abuse of the citizen when making an arrest. Although the policing policy allows for use of minimal force when arresting a resisting citizen, police officers should not take advantage of this to torture citizens and cause major bodily harm or even death. The U.S Supreme Court has reaffirmed the fact that using bullets on nonviolent and unarmed suspect is against the Fourth Amendment (Peak, 2009) as indicated in appendix 2.

As an oversight authority, the police officers are not allowed to apply psychological and verbal abuse on the public in their line of duty. For instance, use of profane language on the citizen is classified by Carter as psychological game aimed at insulting, degrading, and imposing unjust authority on their ‘subjects’ as indicated in appendix 1. The use of profanity has several effects on the victim and should not be used by police officers. In order to avoid this situation, Carter proposes minimizing profanity among the police force through scrutiny of profanity complains and police leadership banning its use in the public (Peak, 2009).

Personal reflection

From the findings of this report, I have gathered knowledge on the necessary training I need to focus on to further personal career growth and development as a police officer. I have chosen the unique recital engagement rituals of the policing authority because it has created an environment of dynamic, consultative, and proactive service for police officers. The ritual also defines the line between the rationally correct, economically viable, and ethically correct decisions as a police officer.

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Since the policing institution has a reputation for hiring the best, I have to maintain high average grade to increase my chances of getting a promotion from the current detective 1 rank to detective 2 or even detective 3. To be competitive, I will frequently update my skills through quality work to make my achievements and experiences visible. I would confess that pursuing career in policing in the US is the most time-consuming part of my job. However, since I have developed good technical writing skills, I have become a good law enforcement officer, as attention to detail and specifics are always part of my duties (Alred, Brusaw, & Oliu, 2011).

In writing the report on career in policing as a police officer, I have learned to appreciate the need for clear communication and organization of the evidence within the crime under investigation. Besides, I have come to appreciate the essence of writing in a few words to summarize would have been along sentence. This is necessary to balance the written and verbal aspects of communication in the line of duty. Although I was accorded previous training on how to write citations, I have developed thought arrangement skills through aligning different evidences under review into parts for ease of flow (Alred, Brusaw, & Oliu, 2011).

The process of developing the report was very challenging, since each topic was unique and required different approach. However, I managed to overcome this challenge through carrying out research to establish fact about each topic as related to career in policing. I must admit that the successful completion of the project gave me an idea of how to organize a pattern of thought into sensible points that are supported by well cited evidence (Wetzel, 2010).


In conclusion, the police detective job is very dynamic and any interested candidate must have good health, physical fitness, and at least a high school diploma to qualify. The process of becoming a police detective begins at recruitment and ends with the graduation from the police academy. As a police officer, my job description includes investigations, traffic control, writing citations, arresting unlawful violators of law, and most writing reports on a daily basis.

Besides, I should follow the policing guidelines to avoid writing reports that are ambiguous or inaccurate in capturing of a case (Wetzel, 2010). In writing this paper, I have learned to appreciate the need for focused analysis and arrangement of thought patterns into sensible arguments (Alred, Brusaw, & Oliu, 2011).


Alred, G., Brusaw, C., & Oliu, W. (2011). Handbook of technical writing (11th ed.). New York, NY: Bedford.

Beggs, J., & Davies, H. (2009). Police Misconduct, Complaints, and Public Regulation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gottschalk, P. (2010). Police management professional integrity in policing, New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Los Angeles Police Department. (2015). Sworn police officer class tittles and job descriptions. Web.

Peak, K. (2009). Justice Administration: Police, Courts, and Corrections Management, Alabama: Prentice Hall.

Police Science and Law Enforcement. (2015). Become a police detective: Education and career roadmap. Web.

Wetzel, T. (2010). The technical writer’s and editor’s handbook: Tools for the trade. New York, NY: Tate Publishing.


Appendix 1: Police Officer Job Profile in the UK

As a police officer you’ll work in partnership with the communities you serve to maintain law and order, protect members of the public and their property, prevent crime, reduce the fear of crime and improve the quality of life for all citizens. You’ll use a range of technology to protect individuals, identify the perpetrators of crime and ensure successful prosecutions against those who break the law.

Key priorities for the 45 police forces in the UK include maintaining public order through combating organised crime, countering the threat of terrorism and acting against antisocial behaviour. Police officers work closely with members of the criminal justice system, social workers, schools, local businesses, health trusts, housing authorities, town planners and community groups. By doing this they are able to provide advice, education and assistance to those who want to reduce crime or have been affected by crime.


As a police officer you’ll need to:

  • work alongside communities, liaising with community groups and individuals;
  • provide a visible presence to deter crime and reassure the community;
  • conduct patrol duties on foot, by car and bicycle;
  • develop community knowledge to identify individuals and locations at risk of being involved in crime;
  • respond to calls and requests from the public to assist at incidents;
  • keep the peace at public meetings, social events, processions, trade disputes or strikes;
  • diffuse potentially volatile situations with due regard for the safety of all involved;
  • act with sensitivity when dealing with situations such as delivering news of a sudden death or when dealing with sexual crimes;
  • conduct initial investigations, gather evidence, take statements and comply with relevant legal requirements;
  • interview suspects, victims and witnesses in accordance with relevant legislation;
  • conduct arrests with due regard for the human rights, security and health and safety of detained individuals, members of the public, colleagues and self;
  • prepare crime reports and present case files to senior officers and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) (England and Wales), the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) (Scotland), or the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS);
  • attend and give evidence in court and at other hearings;
  • complete administrative procedures;
  • submit internal crime reports and criminal intelligence reports;
  • investigate and take action on information received from members of the public;
  • gather, record and analyse intelligence to achieve community safety and crime reduction objectives and provide crime prevention advice;
  • take direction on specific duties from senior colleagues;
  • attend road-related incidents including collision scenes, vehicle check points and traffic offences;
  • enforce road traffic legislation and issue fixed penalties for relevant offences;
  • deal with lost or found property.”

Appendix 2: San Jose Police Department Duty Roster

San Jose Police Department Duty Roster

Typical Duties and Results

Any one position may not include all the duties listed nor do the examples cover all of the duties which may be performed.

  • Patrols a specified district or beat on foot, motorcycle, patrol vehicle (marked or unmarked).
  • Gives information to pedestrians and motorists; Checks for any law violations; Writes citations; directs traffic and escorts convoys.
  • Responds to radio calls and investigates complaints, disturbances, collisions, administers first aid in emergencies
  • Watches for suspicious cars, curfew violators and wanted persons; make arrests for violations of laws and ordinances.
  • Serves warrants and subpoenas; transports prisoners and assists in booking and jailing prisoners; appears in court
  • Investigates conditions hazardous to life or property; conducts initial investigations of crime and crime scenes; may assist detectives in criminal investigation work. Collect and preserve evidence.
  • Writes reports, reads bulletins, reports, orders and implements indicated changes as appropriate. Testify in Court as required.

Distinguishing Characteristics

Work normally consists of routine police tasks performed according to department rules and regulations. Incumbents receive general and special instructions and must be able to act without direct supervision. The absence of ongoing supervision responsibility distinguishes this class from the class of Police Sergeant. Work may involve personal danger.

Skill Sets

  • Knowledge of public relations in law enforcement.
  • Knowledge of safe automobile operation involving the vehicle code.
  • Knowledge of principles of first aid.
  • Ability to be courteous but firm with the public.
  • Ability to react quickly and calmly under emergency conditions.
  • Ability to make sound decisions.
  • Skill in observation and memory of places, persons, names and incidents.

Competency, Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

  • Ability to develop skill in the use of firearms.
  • Ability to analyze situations and to adopt an effective course of action.
  • Ability to read and understand laws, ordinances, departmental policies, rules, written and oral instructions.
  • Ability to read and write reports.
  • Skills in verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning.

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