How to Become a Criminal Investigator with the Los Angeles
Police Department

The Los Angeles Police Department, which has no less than 18 divisions and more than 10,000 officers on its force, is currently the third largest police force in the United States (behind only the New York City Police Department and the Chicago Police Department).

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Detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department work out of the Detective Bureau, which is organized under the Department’s Office of Special Operations. Within the Detective Bureau are the following sections and divisions:

  • Robbery-Homicide Division

    • Robbery special section
    • Cold case special section
    • Homicide special section
    • Special assault section
    • Special investigation section
  • Investigative Analysis Section
  • Scientific Investigation Division
  • Juvenile Division
  • Gang and Narcotics Division
  • Commercial Crimes Division
  • Detective Support and Vice Division

    • Threat management unit
    • Mental evaluation unit

Requirements for Becoming an LAPD Detective

Minimum Requirements – Becoming a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department starts by meeting the qualifications to become an LAPD police officer. Becoming a police officer with the Department means meeting a number of minimum requirements:

  • Must be at least 21 years old at the time of Academy training (Individuals may take the written exam if they are at least 20 ½ years old)
  • Must possess a high school diploma (a two- or four-year degree in a relevant field related to criminal justice would exceed minimum requirements)
  • Must be a United States citizen or a permanent resident alien
  • Must have a history of lawful conduct
  • Must have high standards of honesty and integrity
  • Must have financial and driving records that reflect responsible decisions and appropriate behavior

The Completion of Academy Training – All candidates selected to become Los Angeles police officers must complete six months of training at the LAPD Academy. The curriculum of the LAPD Academy includes the following:

  • Academics in preliminary investigation, report writing, traffic investigation, and traffic enforcement
  • Driving, including defensive driving, safe vehicle handling, and pursuit policy
  • Firearms training, including weapon care and safety, chemical agents handling, marksmanship, and tactical manipulation
  • Human relations, including cultural sensitivity training, media relations, stress management, community relations, hate crimes, missing persons, and disability awareness, just to name a few
  • Physical training, including physical conditioning, physical arrest techniques, and weaponless defense, etc.
  • Law study, including laws of arrest, crimes against persons, crimes against property, crimes against children, the California penal code, federal laws, etc.
  • LAPD-specific training, including:

    • Mobile digital computer training
    • Alcohol abuse
    • Advanced tactical training
    • Air support operations
    • Bomb squad
    • K-9 operations
    • Community policing
    • Administration of discipline

The Career Ladder – All LAPD officers begin their careers working in patrol. While some officers choose to remain in patrol, others choose to pursue promotion to specialized divisions, such as criminal investigations, after a few years in the field.

The first promotion is from officer to detective. Individuals who are promoted to detective either move into the investigative branch or become a sergeant and move into field supervision. Promotion to detective occurs no sooner than four years after working as a police officer in patrol.

LAPD detectives conduct specialized or follow-up investigative work. Just a few of the assignments of LAPD detectives include: juvenile crimes, internal affairs, robbery, homicide, undercover narcotics, etc.

Although not specifically required, many LAPD officers choose to pursue post-secondary college degrees when seeking careers as detectives. Just a few of the areas of study pursued by individuals in this profession include:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Public administration
  • Justice administration

The Employment Process – New employment preparation workshops are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Personnel Building Commission room at 700 East Temple Street in Los Angeles.

The employment process includes the completion of the following:

The application process includes seven steps:

  • Background application and job questionnaire
  • Personal Qualification Essay
  • Background investigation and polygraph examination
  • Physical fitness test
  • Formal interview
  • Medical evaluation and psychological evaluation
  • Certification and appointment

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