How to Become a Criminal Investigator with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

The San Diego County Sherriff’s Office reported a total of 2,858 violent crimes and 13,302 property crimes in 2013. Of the Department’s violent crimes, 10 were homicides, a decrease from 26 in 2012. Rapes during the same time totaled 163, down from 170 in 2012, and robberies decreased from 170 to 163 from 2012 to 2013.

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Overall violent crime decreased 6.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, and property crimes during the same period decreased 6.4 percent.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is the fourth largest sheriff’s department in the United States, consisting of about 4,000 employees, including sworn officers and support personnel. The law enforcement professionals of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department serve a population of more than 2.5 million and a service area of about 4,200 square miles. The Department consists of 7 stations, 9 substations, and 4 rural residential offices.

How to Become a Detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

Individuals who want to become a detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department are best served by first pursuing as a career path as a deputy sheriff cadet-law enforcement. Applicants for deputy sheriff positions must be at least 20 ½ years old (21 at the start of the Academy) and must be a United States citizen.

Applying to Become a Sheriff’s Deputy – All candidates for deputy sheriff positions must apply online. Upon receipt of online applications, the San Diego Department of Human Resources reviews applications and ensures that the candidates meet the minimum requirements of the Department. This process may take up to 6 weeks. Qualified candidates are then sent an email, inviting them to register for the entry-level law enforcement examination.

Upon completion of the employment process, which includes a thorough background investigation, new hires attend the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Academy.

Upon graduation from the Academy, all new deputy sheriffs in a law enforcement capacity are assigned to a patrol assignment at one of the seven, main patrol stations within the Department:

  • Vista
  • Santee
  • San Marcos
  • Poway
  • Lemon Grove
  • Imperial Beach
  • Encinitas

Advancing to a Specialized Position with the Sheriff’s Department – Sheriff’s deputies working in a law enforcement capacity for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department may apply for a specialized position after the completion of two years of patrol duty.

Detectives with the Department may be assigned to any number of areas, including:

  • Weapons Training Unit
  • Vice Narcotics
  • Training Academy
  • Terrorism Early Warning Unit
  • Narcotics Taskforce
  • Juvenile Intervention/Investigations
  • Judge Unit
  • Jail Investigator
  • Internet Crimes
  • International Liaison
  • Honor Guard
  • Homicide Investigator
  • Fugitive Investigations/Extraditions
  • Fraud/Forgery Investigator
  • Elder Abuse Investigator
  • Domestic Violence
  • Criminal Intelligence
  • Child Abuse
  • Central Investigations Division
  • Canine
  • Backgrounds Investigator
  • Auto Theft Task Force
  • Arson/Explosives
  • Area Investigator

Although achieving a detective job with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department does not require the completion of a post-secondary college degree, many individuals in this profession nevertheless choose to pursue a degree in a related field as to position themselves for career-related opportunities and advancements. Typical degree programs include:

  • Criminology
  • Justice administration
  • Sociology
  • Criminal justice

Law Enforcement Support Services in San Diego County

The Law Enforcement Support and Services Bureau of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, which has about 1,300 personnel, provides general and specialized law enforcement operations, including general and specialized investigations:

Elder Abuse Division: Investigates crimes against elders and dependent adults

Financial Crimes Division: Investigates identity theft, fraud/forgery, scams, and embezzlement

Homicide Division: Investigates homicides, in-custody deaths, suspicious deaths, missing persons, officer-involved, use-of-force deaths, adults kidnappings, and suspicious deaths

Special Investigations Division: Investigates criminal enterprises relating to gangs, terrorism, organized crime, narcotics, and the apprehension of fugitives; includes:

  • Vista Team of the Street Narcotics and Gang Detail
  • South East Narcotics Team
  • San Marcos Street Narcotics and Gang Detail
  • Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center
  • North County Regional Gang Task Force
  • Narcotics Task Force (NTF)
  • Jurisdictions Unified for Drug and Gang Enforcement (JUDGE)
  • High Intensity Drug Traffic Area / Tactical Narcotics Team
  • Gang Suppression Unit
  • Fugitive Task Force
  • East County Regional Gang Task Force
  • Criminal Intelligence Detail

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