According to the U.S. census bureau, West Virginia ranks 39th in violent crimes compared to the other states. West Virginia has a multitude of agencies that employ detectives whose job it is to conduct the investigations that result in the apprehension of dangerous criminals. The largest agency operating in the state is the West Virginian State Police, which operates under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
Founded in 1919 to combat uprisings in the coal mining industry, it is the fourth oldest state police department in the nation. The West Virginia State Police began with a force of 121 men, which had grown to 1,018 male and female employees by 2010, approximately two-thirds of which are uniformed troopers. The department has numerous sub-divisions, including traffic safety, crimes again children, missing persons and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The bureau includes a forensic lab, which assists law enforcement agencies across the state with forensic investigations. It has six regional offices out of which state trooper criminal investigators serve in one of a number of different units:
- Marijuana eradication
- Drug diversion
- Insurance fraud
- Digital forensics
- Technical operations
- Criminal intelligence
- Cold cases
Steps to Becoming a Criminal Investigator in West Virginia
Qualifications – Criminal investigators in West Virginia are selected from the ranks of state troopers. Troopers must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible for the job:
- Between the ages of 21 and 39
- Possession of a valid driver’s license for at least the previous two years
- High school graduate or GED
- No felony or serious misdemeanor convictions
- Pass written examination
- Pass physical fitness test*
- Pass medical examination and drug screening
- Complete psychological evaluation
- Two oral interviews
Although not strictly required, a two- or four-year college degree in a major like criminal justice or law enforcement is a distinct advantage for a successful career with the state police.
*The physical fitness test for state troopers is more difficult than that given to candidates for other WV law enforcement officer jobs. The state police test includes:
- 27 push-ups in one minute
- 29 sit-ups in one minute
- Run 1.5 miles in under 14 minutes, 34 seconds
How to Apply – Job descriptions, open employment opportunities, details about the hiring process and online application forms are available at the WV State Police website.
Recruits in training receive a salary of $2,832.18/month, which increases to $3,438.17/month after graduation. Benefits include life and health insurance, a retirement plan, paid vacation/holidays and paid uniforms and equipment.
Training – New recruits are required to attend 25 weeks of training at the West Virginia State Police Academy in Institute, an unincorporated community near Dunbar, WV. The 24-acre paramilitary-style academy is equipped for a full complement of classroom and field training. The campus includes the following facilities:
- Men’s and women’s barrack-style dormitories
- Four 50-seat audiovisual classrooms
- Martial arts training room
- Computer lab
- Conference room
- Driving simulator room
- Basketball court
- Running track
- Obstacle course
- Firing range
- Administrative offices
Cadets must remain on campus from Sunday evening until Friday evening each week. Alumni refer to the academy as “The Hill.”
Working for the West Virginia State Medicare Fraud Control Unit
As part of the state Department of Health and Human Services, criminal investigators of the Medical Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) are responsible for investigating fraud in the Medicare program as well as the criminal abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.
Requirements for becoming a MFCU criminal investigator include:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college/university
- Two years full- or part-time experience in law enforcement investigations
- Valid driver’s license and availability of an automobile
- Investigative experience, especially in white-collar crime, can be substituted for postsecondary education on a year-for-year basis
Between 2010 and 2012, the MFCU was responsible for 20 criminal convictions and the recovery of almost $46 million in reimbursements.
Online job applications and hiring details are available online at the WV Department of Health and Human Services employment website.
West Virginia State Police Criminal Investigators in Action
On April 29-30, 2014, West Virginia state police criminal investigators were involved in breaking up four cells of an enormous heroin drug ring that extended from Detroit, MI to Huntington, WV. West Virginia state trooper Will Hash, said, “We like to think we’re sending a clear message to the Detroit people who are coming down here to set up shop.”
Additional West Virginia agencies with criminal investigation units include:
- Charleston Police Department Special Enforcement Unit
- Huntington PD Criminal Investigation Bureau
- Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Section
- Moundsville County Criminal Investigation Unit