How to Become a Criminal Investigator in Tennessee

More than ever, locals in Tennessee are relying on criminal investigators and detectives to help the criminal crisis in their state. In fact, Chattanooga’s daily newspaper, the Times Free Press, reports that the FBI recently named Tennessee the nation’s most violent state.

Here, approximately 643 out of 100,000 residents fall victim to violent crime. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, state counties with the highest number of criminal offenses in 2013 include:

  • Knox County – 10,089
  • Shelby County – 8,584
  • Hamilton County – 4,265
  • Sullivan County – 3,792
  • Rutherford County – 3,218


Becoming a Detective with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Meeting Minimum Requirements – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has stringent requirements for jobseekers interested in becoming detectives. Once the TIB approves a candidate’s application, the new recruit must complete an Investigative Course and Training Program in preparation for career challenges.

The minimum requirements include:

  • A bachelor’s degree education
  • A capability to possess and use weapons
  • An age of 21 or older
  • A citizen of the United States
  • A good moral character
  • A criminal background check
  • A fingerprint sample
  • Physical examination
  • Psychological assessment
  • Valid driver’s license
  • No felony convictions
  • No dishonorable discharges from the armed forces

Meeting Educational Standards –The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation requires its criminal investigators to have at least a bachelor’s degree prior to employment.

According to the Tennessee Department of Workforce Development, educational statistics among candidates for criminal investigator jobs in May 2014 were as follows:

  • 75.68% – Bachelor’s Degree
  • 16.22% – Master’s Degree
  • 2.7% – Associate’s Degree

Students are advised to choose degree programs in field-related disciplines such as criminal justice or law enforcement. Examples of popular bachelor’s degrees for detectives in Tennessee include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminology
  • Bachelor of Business Administration in Legal Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Forensics

Specialized Units within The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TIB) is the central authority on criminal investigations in the state. The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is the largest division in the bureau. Detectives that work here are specialized professionals that service and oversee law enforcement agencies throughout the state. In addition to conducting criminal investigations, the CID is also a whistleblower for public corruption and government criminal misconduct. The CID houses four units:

  • Field Investigations Unit
  • Criminal Intelligence Unit
  • Medicaid Fraud Control Unit
  • Technical Services Unit

Field Investigations Unit: Ninety criminal investigators and special agents staff The Field Investigations Unit (FIU). These agents are divided into four teams. Each team is assigned a Judicial District: West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee or Lower East Tennessee. Examples of FIU activities include:

  • Investigating crimes for the attorney general
  • Supporting other law enforcement agencies
  • Collecting evidence for the Criminal Intelligence Unit
  • Focusing on cases involving murder, embezzlement, financial fraud, organized crime, and criminal official misconduct

Criminal Intelligence Unit: Five criminal investigators and special agents staff The Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU). These agents help to penetrate criminality by collecting, assessing, and distributing information pertaining to ongoing investigations. The CIU targets crimes involving fugitives, missing children, and gang violence. Detectives in the CIU also manage:

  • AMBER alert program
  • Tennessee Sex Offender Registry
  • Top Ten Most Wanted

Medicaid Fraud Control Unit: Four special agents/assistant special agents that supervise more than thirty staff members direct The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU). These agents handle cases regarding fraud and victim abuse of the Medicaid system. Major job responsibilities for agents working in the MFCU include:

  • Receiving and processing referrals from healthcare agencies
  • Compiling the Tennessee Department of Health’s abuse registry
  • Opening fraud cases involving improper payments to healthcare providers

Technical Services Unit: Fourteen special agents/assistant special agents staff The Technical Services Unit (TSU). These agents support investigation and homeland security initiatives through the development and application of technology. The TSU was credited with creating the Joint Cyber-Crime Task Force, which manages crimes relating to:

  • Identity Theft
  • Cyber Scams
  • Child Pornography

Other Major Criminal Investigation Divisions in Tennessee

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is not alone when working to investigate and solve the many serious criminals acts committed in the state each year. In 2012 serious crimes included:

150,904 Crimes Against Persons Offenses

  • 57.12% Simple Assault
  • 19.03% Aggravated Assault
  • 18.36% Intimidation

306,809 Crimes Against Property Offenses

  • 47.64% Theft
  • 17.66% Destruction/Vandalism/Damage
  • 16.65% Burglary

84,471 Crimes Against Society

  • 57.98% Drug/Narcotic Violations
  • 29.38% Drug/Narcotic Equipment Violations
  • 9.83% Weapon Law Violations

Partnering with county and city police departments and sheriff’s offices is key when conducting multi-jurisdictional investigations. Some of the major investigative authorities located throughout Tennessee include:

  • Memphis Police Department—Investigative Services Branch
  • Nashville Police Department—Investigative Services Bureau
  • Knoxville Police Department—Criminal Investigation Division
  • Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office—Investigative Special Services
  • Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office—Criminal Investigations Section

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