How to Become a Criminal Investigator in Virginia

Virginia State Troopers who show special dedication and skill and distinguish themselves on the job may be promoted to fill detective jobs with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

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The Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) investigates matters referred by the governor, the attorney general, state police chiefs, sheriffs, and grand juries. When directed, the also BCI conducts investigations of elected Virginia officials.

The BCI encompasses the Criminal Intelligence Division, the Support Services Division, the General Investigation Section, and the Drug Enforcement Section. The largest and most hierarchically complex of these divisions is the Criminal Intelligence Division.

Becoming a Detective with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation

The path to a career as a detective with the Virginia State Police starts by becoming a Virginia State Trooper. The Virginia State Police Department seeks candidates who demonstrate an enormous amount of intelligence, dedication, reliability, and physical and mental perseverance.

After two years of serving as a Virginia State Trooper, a police officer becomes eligible for assignment to a specialty police unit within the Virginia State Police Department. Excellent performance both as a trooper and within an assigned unit may eventually lead to promotion to a position as an investigator with one of the divisions within the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

Minimum Requirements– Applicants interested in becoming Virginia State Troopers must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Have a high school diploma or GED. (However, prospective applicants should note that a four-year college degree is strongly preferred).
  • Be a citizen of the United States at the time of application.
  • Be residents of Virginia, or members of the military whose home of record is Virginia, or plan to establish residence in Virginia by the time of appointment.
  • Be willing to relocate anywhere within the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Be able to pass a background check that includes a polygraph, a fingerprint-based criminal history check, and a credit check.
  • Have a valid driver’s license and a good driving record.
  • Have at least 20/20 binocular vision, with or without corrective lenses.
  • Pass a color vision test that screens for color blindness.
  • Have normal hearing and pass a hearing test.
  • Meet the height-weight requirements for troopers posted by the Virginia State Police Department.

The Application ProcessThe Virginia State Police seeks candidates whose backgrounds and experiences reflect the diversity of the state community. Accordingly, the selection procedure for new recruits is complex, rigorous, and requires the applicant to pass through several rounds of testing and examination. The application process to become a Virginia State Trooper can take up to ten months.

Selection of qualified candidates is performed in three sequential phases. Applicants must pass one phase before moving on to the next.

  • Phase One consists of two components. The first component is a work performance test that includes a 150-yard course that requires the applicant to complete a variety of job-related physical tasks. The test measures cardiovascular fitness and overall physical stamina. The second component of Phase One requires the applicant to take a day-long battery of written tests, including two tests of cognitive abilities, two personality tests, and a personal history questionnaire.
  • Phase Two of the application process entails a polygraph examination and a background examination.
  • Applicants who successfully complete both Phase One and Phase Two of the application process move on to Phase Three, which consists of a comprehensive physical examination including drug screening.

Training Training to become a Virginia State Trooper is rigorous. Trainees live at the Virginia State Police Academy in North Chesterfield for up to thirty weeks with little interaction with family and friends. The academy itself adopts a strict military method of organization and operation. The academy training facilities includes dormitories to lodge the candidates, a cafeteria, and a swimming pool as well as several classrooms, a computer lab, and a research library.

Trainees must meet the demands of a program that pushes them to their physical and mental limits. The training encompasses more than one hundred courses, many of which are college-level in difficulty, and over 1500 hours of instruction. Candidates study defensive tactics, criminal law, the state motor vehicle code, and laws pertaining to arrests and searches.

Training proceeds in four phases.

  • Phase One covers the first twelve days of academy training and entails an abbreviated, overview and introduction to the key academic subjects and physical skills candidates will be expected to master.
  • Phase Two is Pre-Academy Field Training, which lasts from two to four months. During Pre-Academy Field Training, the candidate rides with a field training officer and observes first-hand the performance of trooper duties in the real world.
  • In Phase Three, candidates return to the academy to complete twenty-six weeks of basic training, which involves both physical training and in-class instruction.
  • After basic training, candidates move on to Phase Four, which entails an additional six to eight weeks of field training alongside a field-training officer.

Candidates who are accepted into the Police Academy earn full salary and receive full benefits for the duration of their training.

Career Development and Advanced Training for Virginia’s Investigators

Once established on the job, Virginia State Troopers have ample opportunity to engage in further advanced training that will help them progress in their careers and specialize in their areas of interest. The Training Division of the State Police Department operates the State Police Academy and provides instruction to troopers in specialized skills and knowledge sets, including the handling of canines, which are used by troopers on patrol and to detect narcotics and explosives.

Once a Virginia State Trooper has been on the job for two years, he or she may be considered for inclusion in a state police specialty unit. These units include:

  • Arson/Bomb Unit
  • Aviation Unit
  • Drug Enforcement Unit
  • Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Interdiction Unit
  • Tactical/SWAT Team
  • Motor Carrier Safety Unit
  • Motorcycle Unit
  • High Technology Crime Unit
  • Hazardous Material Unit
  • K-9 Handler Unit
  • Executive Protection Unit
  • Scuba Unit
  • Recruitment Unit

Divisions within the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation

The Criminal Intelligence Division – The Criminal Intelligence Division (CID) provides intelligence related to criminal activities, as well as technical support, to cooperating law enforcement agencies. CID identifies, documents, and distributes criminal intelligence involving persons involved in organized crime, terrorism, and multi-jurisdictional crimes. The Criminal Intelligence Division includes six sections, the Research and Analytical

Units, which oversee and administer the Virginia Criminal Intelligence Center, the Field Intelligence Unit, the Technical Support Unit, the Computer Evidence Recovery Unit, and the Virginia Fusion Center.

The Virginia Criminal Intelligence Center (VCIC) – The Virginia Criminal Intelligence Center (VCIC) is a bank of intelligence information that can be accessed by personnel of law enforcement agencies throughout Virginia. The Research and Analytical Units of the CID are primarily responsible for maintaining the VCIC. Detectives in the Research Unit perform the research necessary to keep the information in the VCIC comprehensive and up to date.

Detectives in the Analytical Unit use the information in the VCIC to identify crime trends, posit solutions to crimes and crime phenomena, and predict potential criminal activity. The VCIC enables detectives to provide analytical and technical support to criminal investigators within the Virginia State Police Department as well as those affiliated with other law enforcement agencies.

The Field Intelligence Unit – The Field Intelligence Unit coordinates the collection and distribution of criminal intelligence and works to improve the flow of information between various CID units. Detectives with the Field Intelligence Unit gather evidence and information to support criminal investigations and serve as liaisons between departments within the Virginia State Police and with other law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

The Technical Support Unit – The Technical Support Unit provides support to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies operating in Virginia by providing and installing technical equipment to aid in the conduct of criminal investigations. The Unit also provides audio enhancement services, closed circuit television systems to facilitate testimony of victims in child abuse cases, and technical equipment to aid in the resolution of hostage crises.

The Computer Evidence Recovery Unit – The Computer Evidence Recovery Unit performs forensic examination of computers and storage drives, recovers evidence from computers and hard drives, and analyzes computer data retrieved by criminal investigators.

The Virginia Fusion Center – The Virginia Fusion Center acts as an information management warehouse, where detectives classify, prioritize, and distribute all information that comes into CID. The Virginia Counter-Terrorism Unit reviews and analyzes information received by the Virginia Fusion Center, prepares research reports based on this information, and provides support to various intelligence operations, both in-state and out-of-state, related to terrorist activities.

The Support Services – The Support Services Division handles law enforcement training and public education regarding insurance fraud and auto theft. The SSD also provides training and technical and administrative support for the Bomb, Arson, and Drug Diversion Units and the Counter-Terrorism & Criminal Interdiction Unit of the Virginia State Police Department.

The General Investigation SectionDetectives with the General Investigation Services Division investigate high-level felonies, including arson, auto theft, incidents involving bombs and explosives, economic and cybercrimes, violent and serial crimes, environmental crimes, insurance fraud, white collar crime, and organized crime. The GIS also engages in fugitive apprehension, crisis negotiation, crime scene examination, and polygraph administration.

The Drug Enforcement – The Drug Enforcement Section is tasked with the enforcement of drug laws in Virginia and with supporting local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to curb drug crime. Initiatives within the DES include the Governor’s Initiative Against Narcotics Trafficking (GIANT) and the Pharmaceutical Drug Diversion Program. Agents with the DES also engage in seizure and sale of forfeited assets related to the sale and manufacture of narcotics and participate in multi-jurisdictional and joint federal task forces that investigate and combat the narcotics trade in Virginia.

Working as a Detective in Virginia

Consider the following crime statistics gathered for Virginia for 2012:

  • In 2012, law enforcement agencies in Virginia reported the commission of 472,836 Group A felonies. The month in which the greatest number of these offenses were committed was August.
  • There were 292 homicide offenses in Virginia in 2012, resulting in 316 deaths. The month with the highest incidence of homicide was September.
  • 17,664 violent crimes were reported in Virginia in 2012; nearly half of these (48.5%) occurred in the victims’ homes.
  • 4771 forcible sex offenses were reported, with 5093 victims, 84.6 % of which were female.
  • Property losses due to theft of money amounted to $54,628,352.
  • 113,216 crimes against the person were reported in 2012, meaning one of these crimes was committed, on average, every 4 minutes 39 seconds. Crimes against the person include homicide, manslaughter, kidnapping, sex offenses, and assault.

The primary duty of a Virginia State Trooper is to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In fulfilling this duty, a police trooper will routinely investigate criminal offenses, arrest perpetrators, interview suspects and witnesses, testify in court, perform searches of people and property, and effectively handle and use firearms.

A Virginia State Trooper may face many challenges and demands in the course of duty, including, but not limited to, relocation within Virginia for personnel reasons, working long and irregular hours, working outside during inclement or hazardous weather conditions, confronting and arresting suspects who may be armed and dangerous, interacting with victims of violent crimes, investigating complex crimes, responding at the scene of motor vehicle accidents, attending autopsies, delivering notification of death to victims’ families, placing one’s self at risk to protect the public, and even taking the life of another person in defense of self or others.

Other Criminal Investigation Divisions Serving the Commonwealth of Virginia

In the routine performance of their duties, Virginia State Troopers and detectives with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation cooperate and share information with a wide range of other law enforcement agencies throughout the state. These local Virginia agencies in turn employ their own detectives and law enforcement personnel to investigate and prevent criminal activity and keep the public safe from harm.

Virginia law enforcement agencies with criminal investigations bureaus include:

  • Fairfax County Police Criminal Investigations Bureau
  • Chesterfield County Police Department Investigations Bureau
  • Newport News Police Department Investigations Bureau
  • Richmond Police Department Major Crimes Division
  • Manassas Police Department Investigative Services Division
  • Alexandria Police Department Investigations Bureau
  • Norfolk Police Department Detective Division

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