Criminal investigation has been made popular by true crime shows, documentaries, and movies. The role of a detective is always seen as the hero; catching the bad guy and maintaining justice. However, this is just one small aspect of criminal investigation and nobody really sees the technical forensic side of investigation. The most notable task a professionally trained criminal investigator has is the investigation of a crime or crime scene for evidence, but there is much more involved such as witness interviews, analysis of lab evidence and laws, and reviewing similar cases and items that may incriminate a person such as documents, audio files, pictures, and videos. Criminal investigators use these tools and evidence to piece together the events of a crime and to make an assumption of what happened.
Becoming a criminal investigator is not an easy task. There are two ways to enter into this profession; going through the police academy and working up through the ranks of law enforcement, or working as a private investigator and networking until you have gained enough experience and resources to be hired as a criminal investigator. Furthermore, there are nine sections of criminal investigation such as homicide, narcotics, fraud, cybercrime, family and sexual violence, gang violence, forensic investigation, crimes against property, and cold cases.
Employers hire criminal investigators if they have a high school diploma and a degree in areas of criminal justice, forensic science, or a related field. Additionally, criminal investigators typically go through on-the-job training or a police academy depending on the route a person takes to become a criminal investigator. Additionally, you must be a U.S. citizen, have a valid driver’s license, good mental and physical health shown by a doctor’s note, and be of good moral character. The type of certification process for becoming a criminal investigator consists of many different assessments such as a physical and psychological exam, a lie detector test, a drug test, and a background check.
If taking the private investigator route, you need a state license, also known as a Class C license, to become a private investigator. Lastly, if you plan to carry a firearm as an investigator, you need a Class G license.
There are four tools a criminal investigator uses; information, interview, interrogation, and instrumentation. With these tools, some creativity, and knowing not to touch anything on a crime scene that hasn’t been identified yet, anyone can become a great criminal investigator.