Police investigators - also called detectives in many jurisdictions - are law enforcement professionals who typically gather and analyze evidence in felony cases. In situations where the perpetrator is unknown, the investigator works to identify and narrow down likely suspects. Because of the serious nature of many of the crimes that a police investigator handles, he or she often tries to recover sufficient evidence to help a prosecutor to secure a verdict in court. In many larger police departments, it is normal for investigators to specialize in areas such as vehicular theft, cyber crime or homicides. Regardless of the specific assignments or crimes, however, many duties are the same; the investigator helps collect and analyze crime scene evidence, interviews witnesses and persons of interest, and documents all aspects of the case until an arrest is made.
Within a law enforcement department, a police investigator is typically promoted from the ranks of patrol officers, usually after extensive testing and exams. Many prospective investigators obtain training in criminology or a related field from a vocational school, community college or university. Police investigators must have an excellent ability to spot details, strong interpersonal skills and an understanding of human communication, as he or she likely interviews individuals who may be hostile to questioning and who might reveal important information. An investigator must also be able to work well in a team setting and on their own. Investigators tend to work long hours and may have irregular shift schedules; they typically spend time in the field and in an office environment.
Police Investigator Tasks
Collect and analyze evidence, including prints and photographs.
Prepare and file documents, reports, and forms.
Investigate criminal cases, including interviewing witnesses and suspects.
Perform basic crime scene assessment.
Testify in court.