How to Become a Criminal Investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is the largest sheriff’s department in the world, serving a population of more than 10 million people. (Los Angeles County is also the most populous county in the U.S.)

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department:

  • Patrols 42 of the county’s 88 cities, as well as 90 unincorporated county areas
  • Has more than 72 units of assignments
  • Has a budget of more than $2.5 million a year

In 2013, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported 68,494 crimes, which included 56,623 property crimes and 11,871 violent crimes. Violent crimes totals in 2013 included 164 criminal homicides, 477 forcible rapes, 3,858 robberies, and 7,732 aggravated assaults.

Crime rates in Los Angeles County, from 2009 to 2014, decreased nearly 23 percent, with criminal homicides showing the largest decline of nearly 35 percent.


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Steps to Becoming a Detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

Minimum Requirements To become a detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, candidates must first become sheriff’s deputies with the Department. To become a sheriff’s deputy, individuals must be, among others, at least 19 ½ years old (20 years old at the time of appointment); a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen; and a high school graduate.

Applicants with college degrees are rewarded with salary incentives; therefore, many individuals in this profession choose to pursue a post-secondary education in a related field, such as:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Justice administration
  • Public administration
  • Sociology

Employment Process – The employment process for becoming a sheriff’s deputy includes:

  • The completion of an online application and job specific questionnaire
  • Passing a written examination; includes an assessment of:

    • Vocabulary
    • Reading comprehension
    • Spelling
    • Grammar
    • Writing
    • Inductive reasoning
    • Deductive reasoning
    • Data interpretation
  • Passing a structured interview
  • Completion of Academy training, which is 20 weeks long
  • Successfully completing the background investigation process, which includes:

    • Pre-investigation questionnaire
    • Fingerprints
    • Polygraph
    • Validated physical ability test
    • Psychological test and evaluation
    • Medical examination

Individuals with questions about recruitment can find answers either on the Department website or by contacting the Recruitment Department at or at 1-800-A-DEPUTY (1-800-233-7889).

Promotional Opportunities for Criminal Investigative Work – After working as a deputy sheriff for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for a period of three years (referred to as the probationary period) officers who are patrol-certified are eligible for promotion to the rank of sergeant, which allows them to work in a criminal investigative capacity. Sheriff’s deputies who work in a custody capacity and want to become a detective must first switch to patrol, become patrol-certified, and then complete at least three years in this capacity before promoting to field operations.

The promotion to sergeant (and then to lieutenant) requires the successful completion of a promotional examination, which consists of a written test, a structured interview, and an appraisal of whether the individuals is promotable.

The written test consists of the following sections:

  • Custody-related policy, statutes, procedures, and laws
  • Policy and procedures, laws, and statutes
  • Patrol-related policy, statutes, procedures, and laws

Specialized Divisions within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is divided into 11 divisions, each of which is overseen by a Division Chief. In addition to three patrol divisions, the Department is organized into the following divisions:

  • Technical Services Division
  • Office of Homeland Security
  • Leadership and Training Division
  • Detective Division
  • Custody Operations Division
  • Court Services Division
  • Correctional Services Division
  • Administrative Services Division

Detective Division

The Detective Division is organized into the following units:

  • Special Victims Bureau: Responsible for the investigation of child sexual and physical abuse
  • Narcotics Bureau: Responsible for the investigation of cases involving the use, possession, sale, manufacture, and transportation of controlled substances
  • Taskforce for Regional Auto Theft Prevention (TRAP): Highly specialized unit that investigates and prosecutes organized auto theft operations, international car theft rings; multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency task force that includes investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, among others
  • Commercial Crimes Bureau: Consists of the following units/sections: Fraud Detail, Identity Theft Detail, Elder Fiduciary Fraud Unit, Traffic Violators, Real Estate Fraud Unit, Detective Information Resource Center, Computer crimes Unit, and Technical Operations Detail
  • Major Crimes Bureau: Consists of the following units: Metro Section, Cargo CATS, Vice, Career Offenders, and Operations Detail
  • Homicide Bureau: Consists of the following units: New Cases Unit, Missing Persons Unit, and Unsolved Cases

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