How to Become a Criminal Investigator in New York

Major police and sheriff departments across the state of New York have their own detective bureaus, while the state also maintains a team of specialized investigators as part of the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Detectives with the BCI are plainclothes officers who conduct their own investigations while also lending their expertise as needed to cases being handled by municipal and county law enforcement agencies.

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Detectives with the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation work on cases involving serious crime. In 2012, this included:

  • 684 murders
  • 2,848 cases of rape
  • 47,423 cases of aggravated assault
  • 28,655 robberies
  • 64,553 burglaries

Candidates interested in learning how to become a detective in New York will start by reviewing the hiring requirements. This begins with a college education to ensure the BCI employs only the most qualified applicants.

Joining the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations

Qualifications – Joining the New York BCI begins by becoming a state trooper, and then pursuing promotional opportunities. After demonstrating competence, qualified troopers will be considered for detective jobs with the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

All applicants must have at least 60 college credits in any subject. 30 credits may be waived under either of these conditions:

  • Two years of active military service with an honorable discharge
  • Completion of a Certified Police Officer Training Course that meets the standards of the New York State Municipal Police Training council

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree will qualify applicants for positions with the New York State Police, and relevant areas of study will provide applicants with a valuable foundation in the criminal investigations field. Especially relevant areas of study include:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Law
  • Criminal Justice
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Police Science

The remaining minimum trooper requirements are:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Must be a US citizen
  • Have no visible tattoos or body art while wearing a uniform
  • Must be at least 20 and less than 30 years of age by the application deadline
    • The maximum age limit can be extended by a year for each year of active military service, up to six years

Application – Information about when the next trooper hiring process starts is posted on the State Police recruitment center webpage.

The application process begins when a candidate registers for an open testing period advertised on this website. This initial exam tests for basic skills in logic and reading, and upon successful completion is followed with:

  • Physical performance test
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Polygraph test and background investigation
  • Medical exam

As troopers become familiar with the operations and procedures of the New York State Police they will be evaluated for suitability for detective jobs. If the evaluations are good and troopers are judged to be a good fit for the BCI they will be notified about the possibility of pursuing detective jobs with the BCI.

Training – After completing 26 weeks of basic training troopers will be ready to hit the roads. After they have gained experience and are approved for promotion to the BCI they will need to make sure they possess the necessary skills to become a criminal investigator.

If not already obtained through experience, newly promoted criminal investigators will obtain detective training in areas such as:

  • Organized crime operations
  • Narcotics and weapons trafficking
  • Conducting cyber investigations
  • Latest advancements in investigative technology
  • Financial crimes and forfeiture investigations

Working in Specialized Units with the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation

Criminal investigators with the State Police BCI can serve in any number of specialized investigative roles. Specialized units within the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation include:

  • Cold Case
  • Violent Crime Analysis Program
  • Violent Case Review
  • Computer Crimes
  • Internet Crimes Against Children
  • Gaming Detail
  • Medicolegal Investigation
  • Special Victims
  • Crime Victims

Detectives in each unit take on some of the most challenging criminal cases in the state. Many cases involve felonies, and can range from sexual exploitation and organized crime to consumer product tampering.

Criminal Investigation Divisions within New York’s City and County Law Enforcement Agencies

Aside from detective jobs with the State Police BCI, larger police and sheriff’s department also employ teams of criminal investigation specialists:

  • New York City Police Department, Detective Bureau
  • Buffalo Police Department, Detective Division
  • Rochester Police Department, Central Investigations Division
  • Yonkers Police Department, Detective Division
  • Syracuse Police Department, Investigations Bureau
  • Albany Police Department, Detectives Unit
  • New Rochelle Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division
  • Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Bureau
  • Suffolk County Police Department, Special Divisions and Units
  • Nassau County Police Department, Detective Division

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