How to Become a Criminal Investigator with the San Diego
Police Department

San Diego is the second most populous city in California and is located just 17 miles from Tijuana, Mexico, and 125 miles from Los Angeles.

The San Diego Police Department services an area of 331 square miles and a population of more than 1.3 million. There were a total of 74,062 incidences of crime in 2013, which was broken down as follows:

  • Murders: 39
  • Rapes: 316
  • Robberies: 1,456
  • Aggravated assaults: 3,492
  • Violent crimes: 5,303
  • Burglaries: 6,355
  • Larcenies: 19,230
  • Vehicle thefts: 6,143
  • Property crimes: 31,728

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How to Become a Detective with the San Diego Police Department

Becoming a detective with the San Diego Police Department and working within the criminal investigation division starts by first becoming police officers with the Department.

To become a police officer with the San Diego Police Department, individuals must first take the written test, which is administered by the San Diego Personnel Department. To sign up to take the test, individuals must be at least 20 years old (must be 21 at the time of Academy graduation). They must fill out an online application through the Personnel Department’s Open Job Opportunities. If the application is approved, individuals are notified of the next available test date.

After the successful completion of the written test, candidates must then complete the employment process, which includes the following:

  • Physical abilities test
  • Pre-investigation questionnaire
  • Background investigation
  • Polygraph examination
  • Interview with the Appointing Authority
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Medical evaluation

Training Requirements

New police recruits attend the San Diego Regional Law Enforcement Training Center, a 25-week college-level training program, which includes classroom lectures, demonstrations, and textbook study. Academy study includes the following:

  • Principles of law enforcement
  • Criminal law
  • Rules and evidence
  • Laws of arrest
  • Control methods
  • Search and seizure
  • Patrol theory and methods
  • Criminal justice system
  • First aid
  • Firearms

All graduates of the Academy are ranked as Police Officer I at graduation and assigned to the patrol division where they work under the guidance of a field training officer for the duration of the 12-week field training program

Preparing to Become a Detective

Although a degree is not required to become a police officer with the San Diego Police Department, the completion of Academy training earns new recruits 27.5 college semester units. Individuals with aspirations of becoming detectives with the Department may be promoted after four years on the job. A college degree is considered a desirable qualification for a criminal investigator job so many officers choose to pursue a formal degree program during this time.

Just a few of the areas of study often pursued include:

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

Criminal Investigations Units within the San Diego Police Department

Criminal investigations in San Diego are handled by a number of units within the San Diego Police Department, including:

  • Child Abuse Unit: Responsible for investigations of child abuse, child neglect, child exploitation, and sexual molestation
  • Cold Case Homicide Unit: Responsible for unsolved homicide cases
  • Domestic Violence Unit: Handles all domestic-related crimes
  • Elder and Dependent Abuse Unit: Responsible for identifying individuals who prey on senior and dependent adult citizens
  • Financial Crimes Unit: Responsible for criminal offenses involving forgeries, credit card offenses, fraudulent credit card applications, embezzlements, computer crimes, etc.
  • Gang Unit: Identifies and investigates gang members and gang activity
  • Homicide Unit: Conducts criminal investigations of homicides, questionable suicides, and deaths that occur in unusual circumstances
  • Metro Arson Strike Team: Investigates fires and explosive incidents
  • Narcotics Unit: Investigates illegal narcotic manufacturers, organized crime, and narcotics dealers
  • Sex Crimes Unit: Investigates felony sexual assaults involving victims under the age of 14
  • Special Investigations Unit: Investigates series criminals and identifies and recovers stolen property
  • Vice Operations Unit: Enforces prostitution laws, conducts inspections of establishments licensed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control

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