A Career as a Detective
Homicide Detectives are plainclothes investigators who specialize in gathering facts and collecting evidence for criminal cases involving murder.
Most of the work involves conducting interviews, examining records, monitoring the activities of suspects, and participating in raids or arrests.
Cases are assigned on a rotating basis and homicide detectives work on them until they result in an arrest or conviction, or until the case is dropped. They may be assigned to interagency task forces, when, for instance, a murder incident involves other areas of crime investigation, such as narcotics.
Career Description for a Homicide Detective
While contributing to an investigation to solve a case, the homicide detective may carry out the following duties:
- Examining the scene of crime to obtain clues and gather evidence.
- Questioning witnesses.
- Questioning individuals linked to homicide victims or to suspects.
- Investigating and interviewing suspects.
- Investigating known or suspected criminals to detect criminal activity or clues.
- Investigating particular facts of the case to identify salient leads.
- Visiting known haunts and mixing with criminals to obtain information relevant to the case.
- Writing reports for submission to the officer in charge.
- Conducting arrests or assisting in the arrests of criminals and suspects.
- Preparing cases for court, in line with formal procedures.
- Testifying before courts or juries.
Would a Homicide Detective Career Suit You?
A police detectice career can be very dangerous and stressful. Officers need to be constantly alert and ready to deal with a range of threatening situations, including violence from suspected criminals. The experience of being present at murder scenes can be acutely stressful.
This kind of career can have a strong impact on the individual's personal life. Hours can be unpredictable and irregular, with paid overtime being common. Shift work is necessary. Junior officers frequently work weekends, holidays and nights. Detectives are required to work at any time, with especially long hours during investigations. Officers are frequently expected to be armed and to exercise their arrest authority whenever necessary, including outside working hours.
Outstanding personal characteristics required are honesty, good judgement, integrity, and a sense of responsibility. An interest in people is essential, together with the ability to relate at all levels. The ability to withstand pressure and make sound, objective judgements and decisions in difficult circumstances is critical. Credibility as a witness is vital, as are good communication skills. The willingness to confront and resolve problems, coupled with good observational skills, is also important. Good physical health is a requirement.
Salary and Prospects for a Detective Career
Police officers usually become eligible for promotion after a probationary period ranging from six months to three years. In a large department, officers are promoted to detective and are assigned to investigative work after completing the appropriate selection and training. As they gain experience, they may gain further promotion and become responsible for controlling, planning and organizing the work of others.
Competition is keen for higher paying jobs in affluent areas. Career opportunities for a homicide detective are more widespread both in local and special police departments that offer relatively low salaries, and in urban communities with relatively high crime rates. College training in police science or military police experience gives an applicant a distinct advantage.
Further career promotion to higher ranks usually depends on the detective's position on a promotion list, which is determined by scores on a written examination and on-the-job performance.
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