How to Become a Criminal Investigator with the Charleston
Police Department

The Charleston Police Department is currently staffed with more than 450 sworn police officers, some of which serve as detectives for the department’s Central Investigations Bureau. Detectives are divided into assigned units. Each unit is comprised of a specialized crime team focused on a specific type of crime. Units include:

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  • Crimes Against Persons
  • Property Crimes
  • Special Victims
  • Special Investigations
  • Field Intelligence
  • Forensic Services

Qualifying to Become a Detective with the Charleston Police Department

Education and Experience Requirements – Detectives or criminal investigators that work in the Charleston Police Department start out by becoming a police officer. Once hired, they must acquire at least three years of work experience to be considered for a promotion.

The minimum education and experience qualifications for police officer positions are:

  • Bachelor’s Degree


  • Associate’s Degree AND four years of law enforcement/military experience


  • High school diploma AND six years of law enforcement/military experience

Basic requirements include:

  • Age of twenty-one years or older
  • United States citizenship
  • Clean criminal record
  • Valid driver’s license

Professionals without at least six years of law enforcement or military experience will need a post-secondary degree in order to become a detective in Charleston. Students are advised to enroll in a field-related degree program such as criminal justice, law enforcement, criminology, emergency management services, public safety and forensics. Examples of courses found in these types of degree programs include:

  • American Criminal Justice System
  • Sociology of Crime
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Women and Crime
  • Research Methods in Criminology
  • Policing
  • Criminal Justice Intelligence
  • Corrections Criminal Court

Physical Fitness Testing The Charleston Police Department has recently introduced a physical agility test that all candidates must successfully pass in order to be considered for open jobs. The department grants re-testing opportunities on a case-to-case basis. The test consists of five physical activities that are scored and evaluated:

  • Bench Press
  • Sit-Ups
  • 300 Meter Run
  • Push-Ups
  • 1.5 Mile Run

Recruit Training All new hires that get accepted into the Charleston Police Department must undergo three rigorous training programs to secure employment. Once all three levels of training are completed, law enforcement agents are assigned to their own unit and beginning working in official capacities.

  • First, new recruits complete a six-week training program directed by the Charleston Police Department.
  • Then, recruits must pass a twelve-week training program through South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.
  • Finally, recruits participate in a fifteen-week field training and evaluation program under the supervision of seasoned officers.

Specialized Units within the Charleston PD Central Investigations Bureau

Crimes Against Persons: Both the Robbery Unit and the Homicide Unit are part of the larger Crimes Against Persons Unit. This unit also handles Cold Case files. Due to the complex nature of these crimes, investigators often collaborate with each other and outside agencies to solve open cases.

Crimes Against Property: Detectives that work in this unit investigate property crimes that are often at the felony level. In particular, detectives concentrate on burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and white-collar crimes.

Special Investigations: The Special Investigations Unit incorporates the Narcotic/Vice and Cyber Crimes Units. Detectives that work in Special Investigations target narcotic and vice law violators as well as offenders that seek to sexually exploit children over the Internet.

Special Victims: There are four detectives assigned to the Special Victims Unit. These detectives work under the guidance of one supervisor to solve crimes involving:

  • Criminal Sexual Assault
  • Missing Persons
  • Criminal Domestic Violence
  • Juvenile Crimes

Field Intelligence: The two main purposes of the Field Intelligence Unit is to keep track of Charleston’s violent criminals and to serve as a contact post for violent criminal investigation units within the Bureau. Detectives that work in this unit receive specialized training and instruction in:

  • Databases
  • Surveillance
  • Tactical Training
  • Analysis Methods

Forensic Services: Forensic Services make up a separate division, not unit, within the Investigations Bureau. Investigators that work in the Forensic Services Unit provide forensic science expertise not just to the Charleston Police Department, but to other public safety agencies at the local, state and federal level as well. This division is divided into smaller units, including:

  • Forensic Laboratory
  • Crime Scene
  • Latent Prints
  • Photography
  • Polygraph
  • Digital Evidence

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