What does a Detective do?

The primary responsibility of a detective is to gather evidence and look for clues in order to make decisions and discoveries. These professionals use their skills to solve crimes on a regular basis, but their work is not always urgent. Some are hired primarily to keep an eye on and observe specific individuals, or to uncover information about missing friends or long-lost relatives. Detectives in corporations are frequently kept busy scouring financial records and digital files for signs of wrongdoing. The spirit of the work — piecing together pieces to create a whole picture — is usually consistent, even if the settings vary.

Work of the Police and Law Enforcement

A detective in a police department or law enforcement agency is usually a high-ranking officer tasked with solving crimes and apprehending criminals. Detectives visit crime scenes frequently, interview witnesses, and examine lab reports and suspect profiles. They’ll help other investigators narrow down a suspect or piece together an unsolved series of events, and they’re sometimes in charge of making arrests. Detectives may be required to testify in court about their findings, beliefs, and processes in some cases.

Private detectives

However, not all detectives work for the police; many work as private investigators, often for their own companies. On a project-by-project basis, these people frequently solve mysteries or settle personal disputes. Finding a biological parent, as well as setting up surveillance on a spouse, are examples of activities that require some detective work but are not appropriate for the police. However, if a private investigator discovers evidence of a crime, he or she is usually required law to report the information to law enforcement.

This isn’t to say that private investigators don’t play a role in solving crimes. Many will look into the specifics of a crime, but only after a case has gone “cold” or when there is insufficient evidence for law enforcement to continue their investigation. For example, a family of a missing or deceased person might hire a private investigator to continue their investigation. These inquiries could lead to possible solutions to a crime or enough evidence for police to reopen an investigation.

Corporate Investigators

In cases of suspected fraud or embezzlement, large corporations occasionally hire detectives to conduct internal investigations. Going to the police in these situations can be embarrassing for a company and can result in unwanted publicity, especially if no wrongdoing has occurred. A detective will be able to piece together the paperwork to see if anything is wrong; once corporate leaders are aware that something is wrong, they will be able to confidently turn over the evidence to the proper authorities.

Detectives may be employed law firms to assist attorneys in their investigations of opponents. There is often a great deal of paperwork and electronic data that needs to be sorted, scrutinized, and evaluated in major trials. A detective’s expertise is better suited to identifying potential “question areas” than a lawyer’s. At trial or in depositions, litigators can delve deeper into these issues.

Training and Education Requirements

In most cases, a high school diploma is required to begin working as a detective, though a college or university degree is often considered an asset. Criminal justice, forensic science, and even business degrees are frequently among the most useful. However, for many people, hands-on experience is more valuable than book learning. To gain experience, most detectives begin their careers as rookie police officers or as assistants to private detectives.

Characteristics of Interest

Many detectives rely on their personal intuition and logical abilities to succeed on the job. It’s usually necessary to have a charismatic personality and the ability to communicate effectively with people who don’t want to share information. The more advanced the investigation, the more important it is for a detective to be technologically savvy — using cameras, understanding computer forensics, and operating a wiretap are all important aspects of the job.