Detectives are plainclothes investigators within a police department who gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. They interview suspects and people who are in some fashion connected to the case, engage in surveillance, and participate in raids or arrests. Detectives maintain meticulous records of their investigations and write periodic reports for supervisors.
Detectives in larger police departments usually specialize in types of cases such as murder, extortion, gang activity or fraud. They are assigned a caseload and generally stay with a case until there is a resolution. Like their uniformed counterparts, detectives make court appearances and may testify before a grand jury especially if involved in a large, interagency investigation.
Police departments have increasing levels of educational requirements officers move up the promotions ladder. Most detectives have a bachelors degree in criminal justice or a related field; in many departments some leeway is allowed for experience.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor there were 861,000 police officers and detectives working in 2006; of that number 79% were employed by local police departments. There are about 80,000 detectives employed in local police agencies.
Job opportunities for police detectives are expected to grow at about the same average pace for all job categories. Some of that growth will be affected by city budget problems during an economic downturn. That may cause some departments to keep officers on patrol and forego planned promotions for a period of time.
Lowest 10% $17.11 $35,600
Median Salary $28.82 $59,930
Highest 10% $45.98 $95,630
Source: U.S. Department of Labor