Police Detective Career Profile

The police detective's role is an interesting mix of law enforcement, science, logic and investigation. This job is never dull job and is a truly unique career. This is a career for the truly dedicated, and it provides a service to society unlike any other. 

The General Work Environment

A police detective's work is based the police and legal culture of the time. Detectives usually deal with criminal law, although some may specialize in other areas like white collar crime or specific areas of law enforcement. This can be a stressful, dangerous work environment, but police detectives are highly trained and mentally well adjusted to the nature of the work and its hazards.  The detective's work includes three basic work environments: Field work, office work, and court presentations. 

  • Field work: Includes investigations, surveillance, research, and in some cases extensive travel based on information acquired. 
  • Office work: Administration, conferences, professional team based operations, and the detective's own analytical operations. 
  • Court work: Presentation of information to the court in and formal adversarial environment. 

Primary Functions

  • Gathering of evidence: Gathering raw data, verbal and other information.
  • Examination of crime scenes: This is systematic work, conducted on a very demanding basis of ensuring the integrity and reliability of the evidence and physical information gathered. 
  • Interviewing witnesses and information sources: Excellent communications and a positive approach to dealing with people who may be in distress are basic skills for police detectives. 
  • Working with forensic scientists: Requires good understanding of forensic issues and information. 
  • Working with information systems: Police records, computer systems, and other electronic and recorded data and images form a major part of the information police detectives use regularly. 
  • Evaluating crimes and related situational issues: Nothing is necessarily obvious in a crime scene. The detective must sort through information and situations to establish facts and the basis of theories. 
  • The deductive process: This is the logic of detective work, figuring out the facts from evidence, and recognizing flaws in evidence.
  • Administration: Documentation of procedures and information is a major issue in police detective work.

Office Work of a Detective

  • Clear, accurate documentation of information on a case management basis: Each piece of information and evidence is subject to review by prosecution attorneys, senior police officers, and the court. Evidence is also subject direct audits by internal police operations. 
  • Compliance with statutory requirements for evidence and presentation of information: This is particularly demanding, detailed, finicky, work. Evidence presented to a court undergoes scrutiny by defense attorneys and the court itself.
  • Report writing: Police investigations have high quality standards for presentation of information.  

Wages and Hours

The median wage for an officer is $60,000 and the top salary bracket is approximately $100,000. The shifts require considerable over time, based on the demands of cases and court appearances.