How to Become a Criminal Investigator in Montana

The 2010-11 report, “Crime in Montana,” published by the Montana Board of Crime Control indicates that during that two-year period one violent crime occurred in the state every 3.4 hours. Of the violent crimes reported in Montana that year, the majority (81 percent) was aggravated assault, followed by rape (12 percent), robbery (six percent) and homicide (less than one percent).

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The main investigative department for the state of Montana is the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI). Headquartered in Helena, this division handles criminal investigations of major crimes occurring across Montana.

Within the Montana DCI are four bureaus:

  • Academy Bureau – responsible for law enforcement training
  • Investigations Bureau – investigates white collar and computer crimes and assists local law enforcement in criminal investigations
  • Narcotics Bureau – handles drug investigations statewide
  • Investigative Support Bureau – where Montana’s statewide criminal information databases are kept

Steps to Becoming a Detective with the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation

Basic Requirements – DCI detectives are called Agents. There are strict requirements one must meet in order to become a Montana DCI agent. They are:

  • Attain at least 18 years of age
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Hold a valid Montana driver’s license
  • Undergo a thorough criminal background check
  • Pass a medical examination
  • Meet law enforcement physical standards
  • Completed the Montana Law Enforcement Academy basic course and be Public Safety Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified (see training section below)

Education and Experience Requirements – Job candidates can fulfill the DCI Agent education and experience requirements in one of the following ways:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree in a field related to political science AND five years of law enforcement experience, two of those years being in felony investigations


  • Complete two years of college credit (preferably political science-related) AND six years of law enforcement experience, four of those years being in felony investigations


  • Hold a high school diploma/GED AND eight years of law enforcement experience, four of those years being in felony investigations

Coursework in first-line supervision, financial investigations, accounting, processing crime scenes, computers, surveillance equipment, narcotics investigation, and homicide investigation are particularly helpful to aspiring DCI Agents in Montana.

New DCI Agents are also expected to be proficient in using computers and software, using law enforcement-related equipment, preserving a calm demeanor in stressful situations, and having good communications skills (written and oral). They are also expected to be creative in completing investigations.

They should know the Montana Code Annotated, especially sections related to rules of evidence, seizures and forfeitures of controlled substances, criminal justice information and privacy or security regulations, criminal procedure, and crimes.

Training Expectations – All DCI Agents will already have completed 12 weeks of basic training at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy in Helena, in police proficiencies, traffic enforcement, investigation, patrol operations, police function, human behavior and law.

They will also be POST-certified, meaning that they have the requisite experience to go along with this education and have also taken specialized courses in their discipline of interest.

City and County Level Criminal Investigation Divisions in Montana

Criminal investigators also work within some of Montana’s larger city police departments and even within some county sheriff’s offices (although many of the state’s sheriff’s offices concentrate mainly on correctional services).

The following is a brief list of just some of the city and county level sheriff’s and police departments in Montana that have their own criminal investigation or detective units:

  • City and County of Butte- Silver Bow Police Department Detective Division – Butte
  • City of Helena Police Department Investigative Division- Helena
  • City of Great Falls Police Department Special Victims Unit Detectives – Great Falls
  • City of Bozeman Police Department Investigative Division – Bozeman
  • Billings Police Department Investigations Division – Billings
  • Missoula Police Department Detective Division – Missoula
  • Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations- Helena
  • Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division – Bozeman
  • Flathead County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division – Kalispell
  • Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Division – Glendive

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