How to Become a Criminal Investigator With the New York City Police Department

The New York City Police Department is the largest agency of its kind in the entire country. As would be expected, the NYPD also responds to a vast number of organized crimes and other serious incidents of crime, which in 2012 included:

  • 52,993 violent crimes, including an average of:
    • More than one homicide every day
    • More than one case of rape every eight hours
    • More than two robberies every hour
    • More than one aggravated assault every two minutes

Investigating crimes of this nature is the domain of the New York Police Department Detective Bureau. Each precinct has its own detective unit, which have many areas of specialization.

Contrary to common belief, criminal investigator jobs in New York City involve much more than forensic work and witness interviews. To become a detective with the NYPD, applicants will need to demonstrate valuable skills and have the right education.

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The Education Necessary to Become a Detective with the New York Police Department

To become a detective with the NYPD, police officers need:

  • At least one year of experience working in their rank with the NYPD
  • A strong demonstrated history of arrests and enforcement
  • A recommendation from their commanding officer

To ensure all NYPD recruits are of good quality and intelligence, the department requires all applicants to have at least 60 college credits with at least a 2.0 GPA, with the only permissible exception for this being two years of active military service. Because officers who eventually move into detective jobs can specialize in investigating virtually every category of criminal activity that exists, applicants have many options when it comes to pursuing a relevant college education.

While any subject of study can qualify applicants for NYPD eligibility, candidates who are interested in pursuing detective jobs may find the foundational knowledge and skills developed through a degree program in any of the following majors to be most beneficial:

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

A bachelor’s degree in any of these fields can open up greater career possibilities. To encourage its officers to pursue a college education, the NYPD offers several degree incentives:

  • Police training academy may count for up to 29 credits towards a degree
  • The NYPD offers its employees 71 scholarships to attend certain colleges and universities
  • The NYPD has partnered with 16 colleges to offer its officers tuition reduction programs
  • Cadet Corps provides up to $20,000 in tuition assistance with the ultimate goal of increasing the total number of college graduates in the NYPD

The Application Process

For starters, candidates will need to fulfill the remaining requirements to join the NYPD:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Have no felony or domestic violence convictions
  • On the date of hire candidates must:
    • Be at least 21 years old
    • Reside within one of the five NYC boroughs and surrounding counties
    • Have a New York State driver’s license

After being hired and fulfilling the initial three requirements to become a criminal investigator, officers may be assigned to their precinct’s detective unit. There are 123 precincts divided among the city’s five boroughs:

  • Manhattan
  • Bronx
  • Brooklyn
  • Queens
  • Staten Island

Criminal Investigator Training

Criminal investigator training begins with basic training at the police academy. Entry-level patrol officers will develop the skills they learn at the academy as they work their first assignments. These will include making initial investigations and responses to crimes, with more difficult and unresolved cases being passed to detectives.

Upon being assigned to the Detective Bureau, officers will already have a good idea of what to expect. However, because of the sheer size and diversity of New York City there are always surprises, and detectives can never have too much training.

One foundational detective training class is the Criminal Investigation Course, sponsored by the NYPD Training Bureau. This is a 105-hour intensive class comprised of instructors who are considered to be experts in their field.

Each precinct has detectives with specialized criminal investigator training who lend their expertise to solving challenging cases. Areas of specialized training for detectives include:

  • Conducting homicide investigations
  • Domestic violence
  • Weapons trafficking
  • Narcotics investigations
  • Terrorism
  • Human trafficking
  • Special and vulnerable victims
  • Crimes against children
  • Hate crimes
  • Missing persons
  • White collar financial crimes
  • Bank robbery evidence collection

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