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How to Become a Criminal Investigator in Wisconsin

With 236 violent crimes committed in 2012 for every 100,000 residents, Wisconsin is among the safest states in the U.S.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) has the largest body of criminal investigators in the state. It employs non-uniformed, certified law enforcement officers called Special Agents who investigate serious crimes that require specialized resources not available to local police departments.

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The Division of Criminal Investigation’s special agents are responsible for investigating some the state’s most serious crimes. They work closely with local, county, state and federal law enforcement personnel to investigate a wide assortment of major, multi-jurisdictional crimes, including:

  • Homicides
  • Financial Crimes
  • Drug trafficking/narcotics
  • Illegal gaming
  • Arson
  • Homeland security crimes
  • Fraud
  • Computer crimes
  • Internet crimes against children
  • Government corruption

Special agents of the state Division of Criminal Investigation are also responsible for any special investigations requested by the governor or the Wisconsin state legislature.

Becoming a Detective with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation

Satisfying the Qualifications – The following are the minimum eligibility requirements for Special Agent jobs with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation. It is a very desirable job; consequently applicants should strive to meet the maximum rather than the minimum qualifications whenever possible.

Education and experience requirements stipulate four years of postsecondary education (at least 120 college credits) OR at least 60 college credits and two years full-time law enforcement experience.

Basic requirements:

  • At least 21 years old at beginning of employment
  • In possession of or eligible for a Wisconsin driver’s license
  • Willing to travel
  • No felony or domestic violence misdemeanor convictions
  • Legally allowed to carry firearms and ammunition
  • Able to pass physical fitness test and drug screening
  • Able to pass a thorough background investigation
  • Willing to work nights, weekends and in bad weather
  • Have excellent written and oral communication
  • Possess excellent interpersonal skills
  • Be a team player
  • Possess leadership skills

In addition to these requirements, the candidate should possess the following personal characteristics:

  • Good listener
  • Analytical mind
  • Common sense
  • Good judgment
  • Observant
  • Organized
  • Honest/possess integrity
  • Confident
  • Reliable
  • Flexible

Importance of a Good Education – The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation is very selective when choosing special agent recruits. It is a highly sought-after job and there are always far more applications than open positions. Consequently, the importance of a good education cannot be understated. Applicants with at least a bachelor’s or master’s degree have a clear advantage over those with the minimum educational qualifications.

Wisconsin residents are fortunate to have a wide selection of colleges and universities in their backyard. Wisconsin is home to approximately 28 four-year-or-better colleges and universities and 21 community colleges (associate’s degree). There are also several accredited four-year online schools.

Training – The Wisconsin Department of Justice administers the Training and Standards Bureau which implements training programs for the Wisconsin law enforcement community. Division of Criminal Investigation special agents are required to complete the basic law enforcement certification training which covers such topics as:

  • Deadly force decision making
  • Interview and interrogation techniques
  • Constitutional law
  • Ethics
  • Problem solving

The Division of Criminal Investigation conducts additional training for special agent recruits as well as continuing education for all working agents. New recruits are on probation for the first 18 months.

How to Apply – Applications are only accepted during special agent recruitment periods. Recruitment dates, hiring process instructions and online application forms are found at the Department of Justice employment website.

Annual salaries for entry-level special agents are $52,192 to $61,358 and for senior special agents $64,164 to $74,444. Criminal investigators are entitled to all state employee benefits as well as necessary equipment and use of a state vehicle.

Organization and Structure of the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation

Each special agent is assigned to either the main office in the state capital or one of the field offices. Special agents are armed with a handgun, handcuffs and possibly a protective vest. The duties and responsibilities if a special agent include:

  • Plan and carry out sensitive investigations
  • Develop information sources, including confidential informants
  • Interview witnesses
  • Interrogate suspects
  • Procure and carry out search warrants
  • Make arrests
  • Collect and secure evidence
  • Prepare detailed written reports
  • Testify in court

The Division of Criminal Investigation consists of four bureaus:

  1. Administrative Bureau – The division is headed by an Administrator and a Deputy Administrator who oversees the progress of all investigations, work closely with the state attorney general, and provide a link to the general public.
  2. Special Operations Bureau – This bureau is responsible for:

    • Conducting internal investigations, inspections and audits
    • Overseeing the Computer Crimes against Children task force
    • Coordinating the child abductions response team
    • Enforcing legal gaming laws

  1. Field Operations Bureau – Responsible for most of the division’s investigations. Special agents work out of the main office in Madison as well as field offices in Milwaukee, Appleton, Eau Claire and Wausau
  2. Fire Bureau – These special agents work for the office of the State Fire Marshal to investigate fires and explosions of unknown or suspicious origins in order to uncover their causes.

Criminal Investigation Divisions in Wisconsin’s City and County Law Enforcement Agencies

In February 2014 special agents in Fond du Lac were responsible for the indictment of an individual involved in computer crimes against children and special agents in Marathon County partnered with members of the sheriff’s department in the investigation of a child pornography ring which ended in arrests.

In addition, the tireless work of special agents in Madison resulted in the Feb. 26 arrest of Abimael Gutierrez on charges of fraudulently using an $82,870 business loan from the Depart. of Commerce.

Wisconsin’s other criminal investigations divisions that work in partnership with the Division of Criminal Investigation at the city and county level include:

  • Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division
  • West Allis Criminal Investigation Unit
  • Sheboygan PD Criminal Investigation Division
  • Madison PD Criminal Investigation Section
  • Fort McCoy (US Army) Criminal Investigation Division

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