How to Become a Criminal Investigator with the Chicago Bureau
of Detectives

The Chicago Police Department is one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in the country, employing more than 13,000 patrol officers, criminal investigators and other law enforcement and civil staff. As the third most populated city in the U.S., Chicago’s violent crime rate is nearly three times the national average.

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Detectives working with the Chicago Police Department serve in the Department’s Bureau of Detectives, which is headed by John J. Escalante. The Bureau of Detectives is housed within the broader Bureau of Investigative Services, which also includes specialty divisions responsible for counterterrorism and intelligence, as well as investigations into organized crime.

Becoming a Detective with the Chicago Bureau of Detectives

The Chicago Police Department requires that all hired officers serve a probationary period of at least eighteen months as an entry-level police officer before they can apply to a more specific unit and begin working in investigations.

The starting salary for an entry-level officer is $43,104 for the first year, but is raised to $55,723 in the second year.


In order to become a police officer with the Chicago Police Department, the following educational requirements must be met:

  • Applicants must complete a minimum of 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours of college credit from an accredited school


  • Completion of four years of continual active duty in the United State’s military


  • One full year of military service in the military of the United States combined with the completion of the 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours from an accredited college or university

Other Requirements:

Joining the Chicago Police Department is a rigorous process that involves many different phases of testing and assessment. This process involves:

  • An initial written exam
  • A test of physical fitness
  • A drug screening
  • A psychological aptitude examination
  • An overall health exam

Applicants must also be at least 21 years old and younger than 40.

All applicants that fulfill requirements will be added to an eligibility list. This list is not a guarantee of employment, but it is an important step towards being hired by the Chicago Police Department.

Training Academy:

After an employment offer is extended, those applicants who are accepted will spend eighteen months at the Training Academy fulfilling the role of probationary police officers. During this training period, PPO’s are required to:

  • Complete the 480 hour training course mandated by the Illinois Governmental Law Enforcement Training board
  • Complete 300 additional hours of training developed by the Chicago Police Department to supplement the initial training course
  • These training courses will cover topics such as: human behavior, criminal and traffic law, firearms training, drills, physical fitness regimen, administrative operations, police policies and procedures, writing reports, criminal investigation procedures, and safety

Once training is complete, recruits must successfully pass the State of Illinois Certificate Examination and Field Evaluation.

Transferring to the Chicago Police Department Detective Division

Upon completing the probationary period of eighteen months, an officer may request a transfer to the Detective Division. There is no guarantee of promotion, but officers will be brought up from the rank of police officer as openings arise in the Division.

Depending on the current demand, there may be a competitive exam process used to isolate the most qualified candidate, or officers may be promoted simply on the basis of seniority.

Once promoted, detectives are responsible for:

  • Investigating felonies
  • Finding missing persons
  • Processing juvenile offenders
  • Investigating bombing incidents
  • Investigating instances of arson
  • Collecting and processing forensic evidence from crime scenes

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