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How to Become a Criminal Investigator in Michigan

A 2013 Pew Center for the States Report found that crime in Michigan fell by 17 percent between the years 2007 and 2012. The state’s rate of incarceration also dropped by 12 percent. Even as crime rates decrease and the state channels more funds into its correctional system, detectives and other criminal investigators remain key to keeping the state’s criminal justice system functioning well.

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Qualifying to Become a Detective with the Michigan State Police

Detectives working for the Michigan State Police Investigating Units are tasked with investigating major crimes that take place within the state. They also assist county and city criminal investigators in Michigan in investigating crimes. There are five major investigating units within the Michigan State Police:

  • Southwest Commercial Auto Recovery (SCAR) – This unit of auto theft investigators is multi-jurisdictional and is headquartered in Lansing but has units across the southwestern part of the state.
  • Multijurisdictional Task Forces – These units across the state concentrate on narcotics and substance investigations and enforcement.
  • Identity Theft – These investigators concentrate on criminal identity theft cases at the state, federal and local levels. It is based in Lansing.
  • Hemp Unit – This unit investigates crimes involving marijuana and is based in Lansing.
  • Computer Crimes Unit – There are four such units statewide:
    • Rockford
    • Flint
    • Livonia
    • Lansing

In order to become a detective with the Michigan State Police, one must first become a state trooper and then work up the career ladder to detective. Basic qualifications to become a state trooper include:

  • Age 21 or older
  • Michigan resident with a valid state driver’s license
  • High school diploma/GED at the minimum (a college degree is preferred)
  • No felony convictions on record
  • Meet minimum hearing and visual acuity standards
  • Have a good driving record

Applicants for state trooper jobs in Michigan must pass written and physical fitness examinations. They must also undergo a background investigation and oral interviews. If hired, new Michigan state troopers participate in 20 weeks of training at a Michigan Police Academy (approved academies are located across the state). Then they are assigned to the Field Training Officer Program, which lasts another 17 weeks. Once on the job, Michigan state troopers can apply for detective positions within Investigating Units as these jobs become available.

Qualifying to Become a Criminal Investigator at the County Level in Michigan

County-level criminal investigators in Michigan may be found within sheriff’s departments. Not all sheriff’s departments in Michigan have investigative units or detective bureaus, as some concentrate more on corrections and jails. The following county sheriff’s departments in Michigan do, however, employ criminal investigators:

  • Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau – Located in Mt. Clemens, detectives working within this bureau conduct all manners of detective duties, including collecting evidence and conducting interviews. They investigate crimes occurring within Macomb County, including computer crimes, in the townships of Harrison, Armada, Richmond, Lenox, Ray, Bruce, Washington and Macomb.

A Detective Lieutenant is in charge of the bureau, with an Administrative Sergeant as second-in-command over the bureau’s Detectives.

One cannot become a detective in Macomb County without first becoming a Police Officer within the Sheriff’s Office.

Requirements for this job include:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. citizen
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid Michigan driver’s license and good driving record
  • Pass the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards police tests in writing, reading, and physical agility
  • Pass the Michigan Sheriffs Coordinating and Training Council’s exam for corrections officers

Training for new police officers in Macomb County will be at least 160 hours in duration, per Michigan state law.

  • Kent County Sheriff’s Department Law Enforcement Investigative Bureau – The investigators within this department are headquartered in Grand Rapids and investigate crimes occurring within Kent County. A Captain, Lieutenants, and Sergeants supervise investigative units within the Bureau.

Kent County Sheriff’s Department Law Enforcement Investigative Bureau units include:

  • Major Case Unit- the four detectives assigned to this unit investigate violent crimes occurring in Kent County
  • General Case Unit – the six detectives in this unit investigate crimes like fraud and property crimes
  • Family Services Unit – the six detectives within this unit investigate crimes involving juveniles, sexual abuse cases of children under the age of 17, and personal protection order violations
  • Cold Case Unit- the two detectives assigned to this unit assist other jurisdictions in investigating cold cases
  • Financial Transaction Team Unit – the detective in this unit assists other jurisdictions in investigating credit card fraud and identity theft
  • Drug Enforcement Administration Unit – the detective assigned to this unit assists the Federal DEA in investigating narcotic law violations that affect Kent County
  • Metropolitan Enforcement Team – the detective in this unit assists other jurisdictions in investigating conspiracy narcotic law violations that affect Kent County
  • Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team – the six detectives in this unit investigate narcotic crimes in the county

Aspiring detectives in Kent County must first become police officers. The requirements and the training are the same as listed above for Macomb County, per Michigan state law.

Qualifying to Become a Criminal Investigator in Michigan’s Cities

Some of the larger city police departments in Michigan employ their own criminal investigators and detectives. These include:

  • Detroit Police Department – the number of criminal investigators within Detroit’s Police Department totaled just fewer than 100 in 2012. They work out of the Central District and Schaefer Station offices. These investigators investigate crimes occurring throughout the city of Detroit, including homicides and sex crimes.

In order to become a Detroit detective, one must first qualify as a police officer, which entails:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Being a U.S. citizen
  • Having a valid Michigan driver’s license and good driving record
  • Meeting hearing and visual acuity standards
  • Having a high school diploma/GED
  • Having no felony convictions on record
  • Passing the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) pre-employment test
  • Passing the MCOLES Physical Fitness Test
  • Passing interviews, background checks, psychological exams, physical exams

If hired, new Detroit police officers must complete 19 weeks of training proscribed by the MCOLES and pass a certification exam. Then, police officers in Detroit may rise up the career ladder as detective positions become available.

  • Lansing Police Department Investigations Division – This division within Lansing’s Police Department investigates crimes occurring within the city through these units:
    • Cold case homicides
    • Homicides
    • Criminal intelligence and analysis
    • Crimes against persons
    • Child abuse
    • Crime scene investigation
    • Property/auto theft
    • Fraud
    • Special operations- violent crime initiative
    • Dive team
    • Tactical and rescue team
    • Gang resistance education
    • Domestic assault

Aspiring detectives in Lansing must first become police officers with the department. These requirements must be met:

  • 21 years of age or older
  • U.S. citizen
  • Completed at least 60 semester college credit hours (a major in a law enforcement-related area is preferred)
  • Valid Michigan driver’s license
  • No felony convictions
  • Meet visual and hearing standards
  • Begin the Hepatitis B inoculation program before employment
  • Pass the MCOLES pre-employment test
  • Pass the MCOLES Physical Fitness Test
  • Pass a background check, oral exam, personality assessment, psychological exam and physical exam

If one becomes a Lansing police officer, completion of MCOLES training of 19 weeks and passing a certification exam is required. As detective positions arise within the department, Lansing police officers may apply for them.

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