How to Become a Criminal Investigator in Texas

According to the Texas Commission On Law Enforcement, there were 75,587 active peace officers serving the state as of 2014. The most experienced of these law enforcement professionals served as criminal investigators within the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division, as well as the many county and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Texas has one of the highest crime rates in the country. Only California has a higher incidence of violent crimes, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.)

Texas reported 97,633 violent crimes committed in 2012, which were classified as follows:

  • Murder and non-negligent manslaughter: 1,016
  • Forcible rape: 6,794
  • Robbery: 29,932
  • Aggravated assault: 60,191

Many of the crimes reported in Texas happen in the major cities of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, Laredo, and Lubbock. With 1,200 cities and towns including 25 major metropolitan areas, and a total state population of approximately 26 million, the criminal investigators here work diligently to manage tens of thousands of cases.

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Becoming a Detective with the Texas Department of Public Safety

The Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division (CID) employs 640 peace officers and 146 civilians who work in administrative support capacities. Personnel, including detectives, may work at the CID headquarters in Austin or in one of six regional offices. CID posts are located in El Paso, Garland, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, or San Antonio.

The Texas CID has five divisions in which detectives, other peace officers, and support personnel may work:

  • Drug program
  • Gang program
  • Special investigations program
  • Investigative support section
  • Administrative section

Individuals who wish to become a detective with the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division (CID) generally must have at least some college education along with law enforcement or military experience. It is next to impossible to become a detective without first being a state trooper with the Texas Highway Patrol; the Texas Highway Patrol is a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Candidates must meet one of the following requirements to be considered for a state trooper position with the Texas Highway Patrol:

  • Two years of law enforcement or military experience and anywhere from zero to 15 college semester hours.
  • Eighteen months of military or law enforcement experience and between 16 and 30 college credits.
  • A year of law enforcement or military experience and anywhere from 31 to 45 college semester hours.
  • Six months of military or law enforcement experience and between 46 and 60 college credits.

Other qualifications to become a Texas Highway Patrol trooper include:

  • Be at least 20 years old at the time of filing an initial employment application, and be at least 21 years old by the time the successful trooper trainee applicant graduates the required police academy.
  • Pass a physical exam, including drug screening, fitness testing, and an eye exam.
  • A thorough background and reference investigation, including a criminal records check.
  • Successful completion of 21 to 26 weeks of on-campus training through the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Earning a college degree in one of these fields will help candidates for detective jobs prepare for a career in criminal investigations:

  • Criminal justice or criminology
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Justice administration
  • Police science
  • Social work

Texas’ City and County Criminal Investigation Divisions

Most of the municipalities in Texas have police departments with criminal investigations divisions. Generally, holding a bachelor’s degree and spending at least three years as a police officer is required before being promoted to a detective position.

Specialized investigations usually relate to homicides, gang activity, major drug trafficking, large-scale marijuana grow operations, offenses of a sexual nature, and crimes against children.

Here are some of the major criminal investigations divisions in Texas:

  • Austin Police Department

    • Air Support
    • Auto Theft
    • Burglary Unit
    • Career Criminal Unit
    • Child Abuse
    • Family Violence Protection
    • Financial Crime
    • Forensic Science Division
    • Fugitive Unit
    • Gang Suppression
    • Homicide
    • Homicide – Cold Case
    • Human Trafficking Unit
    • Missing Persons
    • Narcotics
    • Robbery
    • Special Investigations
    • Vice Unit
  • Austin Regional Intelligence Center
  • City of El Paso Police Department Criminal Investigations Division
  • City of Lubbock Police Department Investigations Division

    • Juvenile Crimes Section
    • Person Crimes Section
    • Property Crimes Section
    • Special Operations Section

  • Dallas Police Department Criminal Intelligence Unit
  • Fort Worth Police Criminal Investigations Division
  • Garland Police Department Criminal Investigations Division
  • Houston Police Department

    • Auto Theft
    • Crime Lab
    • Identification
    • Property
    • Robbery
    • Special Operations
    • Vice
  • Laredo Police Department Criminal Investigations Division
  • San Antonio Police Department Criminal Investigations Division
  • McAllen Police Department Criminal Investigations Division

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