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

San Francisco, which covers an area of nearly 47 square miles, is the fourth most populous city in California. As of 2013, San Francisco was home to more than 837,000 residents, although this city’s daytime population often exceeds 1.2 million.

The San Francisco Police Department reported an increase of 8 percent in violent crime from 2011 to 2012, although crime in 2012 was 14 percent below 2008 statistics. In 2012, there were 44,884 incidences of crime in San Francisco, including 39,105 property crimes and 5,779 violent crimes. Violent crimes during this time included:

  • 69 homicides
  • 110 rapes
  • 3,484 robberies
  • 2,116 aggravated assaults

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How to Become a Detective with the San Francisco Police Department

Minimum Requirements

Detectives with the San Francisco Police Department typically begin their careers by becoming police officers with the Department. After at least two years of experience as a sworn member of the San Francisco Police Department, officers are eligible for promotion to sergeant/detective.

To become a police officer with the San Francisco Police Department, applicants must:

  • Be at least 20 years old (must be at least 21 years old at the date of hire)
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Possess a valid driver’s license

Many individuals may also choose to pursue a post-secondary education and complete a degree program in a related field, as it may introduce a number of professional opportunities for future advancement. Areas of study often include:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Justice administration
  • Sociology
  • Psychology

Application and Selection Process

To become a San Francisco Police Department police officer, candidates must:

  • Complete and submit an online application with the City and County of San Francisco
  • Schedule to take the FrontLine National law enforcement examination (administered by the National Testing Network); exam includes three components:

    • Video-based human relations test
    • Reading ability test
    • Written language ability test
  • Take the Physical Ability Test (Only candidates who passed the written exam are notified to take the physical ability test.)
  • Take the oral interview (Only candidates who passed the physical abilities test are notified to complete the oral interview.); the interview assesses:

    • Interpersonal skills
    • Problem solving
    • Oral communication skills

Only candidates who pass all three test components are placed on the eligible list. Candidates chosen from the eligible list to become San Francisco police officers must successfully complete:

  • A personal history questionnaire evaluation
  • An employment, character, and background investigation
  • A review of judicial and driving records
  • A polygraph examination
  • Drug testing
  • Psychological examination
  • Medical examination
  • Vision testing
  • Hearing testing

Questions about becoming a police officer with the San Francisco Police Department can contact the SFPD Recruitment Unit at 415-734-3331 or by email at joinsfpd@sfgov.org,

Police Academy Training

All new recruits with the SFPD must attend training at the SFPD Regional Training Center Basic Academy, which includes the following phases:

  • Orientation
  • Military Drill/Stress Management/Ethics study
  • Team Building and Confidence course
  • POST academic study in: Introduction to Criminal Law, the Criminal Justice System, Leadership, etc.
  • Physical Training and Defensive Tactics instruction
  • Emergency vehicle operations and control training
  • Report writing
  • Simulation training (POST and Department scenarios that give individuals opportunity to put theory into practice)
  • Range for Chemical Agent instruction
  • First Aid/BLS instruction
  • Formal physical training program
  • POST Work Sample Test Battery examination
  • EVOC range; includes advanced driving techniques
  • Force Options Simulator (video scenarios)
  • Impact Weapons
  • Courtroom instruction
  • POST final examination
  • Tactical movement instruction
  • Field training
  • Driver simulator program
  • Basic accident investigation instruction
  • First responders in Weapons of Mass Destruction Hazmat situations
  • Officer Survival and Field Tactics course
  • SFPD final examination

Upon completion of Academy training, new officers are assigned to their patrol district for orientation.

Criminal Investigations Units within the San Francisco Police Department

Detectives with the San Francisco Police Department work in the Investigations Bureau, which is organized under the Operations Bureau and operates out of all 10 police district stations. The Investigations Bureau includes:

  • Major Crimes Unit

    • Property Crimes Division
    • Personal Crimes Division
    • Juvenile and Family Services Division
    • Narcotics and Vice Division
  • Special Victims Unit
  • Special Investigations Division

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