How to Become a Criminal Investigator in Iowa

According to an analysis of the Uniform Crime Reports of Iowa from 2002 through 2006, most types of crime increased in the state during that time period. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter increased 40 percent between 2005 and 2006. Other types of crime that increased include forcible rape and robbery, arson (with a 20.4 percent increase), and larceny. Iowa’s murder victims in 2006 were made up largely of persons between the ages of 15 and 21.

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Those who aspire to work as criminal investigators at the state level in Iowa can explore career opportunities with the Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation. Based in Des Moines, this division was founded in 1921 and helps local law enforcement agencies across Iowa in their investigations of multi-jurisdictional criminal cases. There are four main parts to the Division of Criminal Investigation:

  • Field Operations Bureau– this is the primary unit for criminal investigators, and encompasses:

    • Cyber Crimes Unit (includes Internet Crimes Against Children)
    • Missing Person Information Clearninghouse
    • Major Crime Unit
  • Criminalistics Laboratory-this unit contains criminalists who test and analyze evidence such as documents, trace evidence, drugs and DNA
  • Support Operations Bureau– this unit consists of administrative functions like criminal history checks, sex offender registry and records/identification/fingerprinting
  • Gaming Operations Bureau – these detectives investigate encroachment of the laws regarding gambling in Iowa as well as conduct criminal investigations involving gambling

Becoming a Detective with the Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation

Iowa’s rules regarding employment in the Division of Criminal Investigation mandate that before becoming a detective with the bureau, applicants must first become sworn peace officers.

Qualifications for peace officers who wish to become detectives with the Iowa DCI include fulfilling the education/experience requirement in one of the following ways:

  • Hold a bachelor degree in any field, but preferably in criminal justice, political science, accounting, social science or business


  • Have three years of work experience as a sworn federal, state or local police/law enforcement officer plus 60 hours of college credit or an associate degree;


  • Have five years of work experience as a sworn federal, state or local peace officer

Other general qualifications include:

  • Must be 22 years of age or older
  • Must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of Iowa at time of employment
  • Hold a valid driver’s license and good driving record
  • Pass a criminal/moral history background investigation
  • Have good vision and hearing
  • Pass the Police Officer Selection Test (POST)
  • Pass oral interviews, a psychological exam, a medical exam and a lie detector test

Candidates who are selected to become sworn peace officers must complete basic training at Camp Dodge in Johnson, Iowa. Courses cover subjects like:

  • Motor vehicle law
  • Physical fitness
  • Criminal law
  • Emergency management
  • Firearms
  • Driving
  • Arrest techniques
  • Defensive tactics
  • Search and seizure and laws of arrest

Following completion of Academy training, new recruits will spend six months in the field training.

Criminal Investigation Divisions within Iowa’s Cities and Counties

Opportunities for investigators to pursue detective jobs in Iowa may also be available within city police departments and some county sheriff’s offices. Not all sheriffs’ offices in Iowa employ criminal investigators, but some of the larger counties do. Other criminal investigation divisions throughout Iowa include, but are not limited to:

  • Scott County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division-Davenport
  • Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division – Sioux City
  • Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Division – Iowa City
  • Linn County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Division – Cedar Rapids
  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division-Des Moines
  • Davenport Police Department Criminal Investigation Division – Davenport
  • Des Moines Police Department Detective Bureau – Des Moines
  • Council Bluffs Police Department Criminal Investigation Division – Council Bluffs
  • Dubuque Police Department Criminal Investigation Division – Dubuque
  • West Des Moines Police Department Criminal Investigations Unit –West Des Moines

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