How to Become a Criminal Investigator with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Maricopa County is the largest county in Arizona, covering more than 9,200 square miles in south central Arizona. Maricopa County, in which the Greater Phoenix region is located, is home to 4.023 million residents, as of 2009, making it the most populous county in Arizona, as well. It also holds the distinction of being one of the largest counties in the United States.

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Given the sheer size and substantial population of this Arizona county, the scope of the criminal investigations conducted by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office are extensive and include some the state’s most serious crimes. Sheriff’s Office criminal investigators work out of three specialized units: the Central Investigations Unit, the Vehicular Crimes Unit and the jail crimes unit.

How to Become a Detective with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Meeting the Qualifications – Qualifying to become a criminal investigator with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office starts with gaining valuable experience by working as a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy.

To become a sheriff’s deputy in Maricopa County, individuals must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Have had no misdemeanor convictions within the last 3 years

Applicants who meet the minimum requirements for employment must be able to then successfully pass the employment process, which includes:

  • Orientation
  • Physical agility test
  • Written test
  • Background interview
  • Polygraph exam and interview
  • Psychological screening
  • Medical screening

Basic Training Academy – All new sheriff’s deputy recruits must them complete the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Basic Training Deputy Academy, which consists of 720 hours of study over the course of 20 weeks. Study within the Academy program includes (among others):

  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Defensive tactics
  • Cultural diversity training
  • Laws of arrest
  • Physical fitness training
  • Driver training
  • Report writing
  • First aid
  • Firearms

The Academy includes 51 written exams, all of which must be passed with a score of 70 percent of better.

Promotion to Investigations – All sheriffs’ deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have the opportunity to promote after two years of services. Individuals who wish to promote to sergeant and work in investigations must also possess an associate’s degree or at least 64 college credit hours to qualify.

Typical degree programs sought out by individuals pursuing careers in criminal investigations include:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Justice administration

Individuals can learn more about becoming a sheriff’s deputy/detective in Maricopa County by contacting a recruiter at 1-877-352-MCSO (6276), locally at 602-307-JAIL (5245), or through email at

Investigative Units within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department

Central Investigations Unit – The Central Investigations Unit of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office consists of more than 30 detectives and 4 sergeants. These professionals respond to crime scenes and investigations that occur throughout the county, including the unincorporated areas and contract towns. This unit is also responsible for follow-up investigations on patrol reports and provides training to patrol deputies.

Vehicular Crimes Unit – The Vehicular Crimes Unit is responsible for investigating serious injury and fatal traffic accidents. This unit includes a sheriff’s sergeant and a lieutenant, who are responsible for performing investigations on hit and run accidents and performing specialized enforcement details, as required. The detectives within this unit receive advanced training in accident investigation and reconstruction

Jail Crimes Unit – The Jail Crimes Unit of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which is part of the General Investigations Division, includes one lieutenant, one sergeant, and seven detectives. The detectives of this unit are responsible for investigating all types of incidents that occur within the Maricopa County Jail system, most of which are criminal in nature. Jail Crimes detectives all investigate incidents throughout the Maricopa County Superior Court System and any that may occur within a Maricopa County facility, including the Maricopa County Hospital.

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