Not Just Anyone Can Become A Detective

Every country has its own systems and practices to choose police detectives, however there is one common factor among all the police departments of the world when it comes to selecting detectives… a person has to go through rigorous assessments before receiving the badge.  My buddy Paul used to talk about wanting to be a detective until he found out how long it took and that it wasn’t a guaranteed position.  Today he’s helping people sell their homes fast with the team over at Sell Your Home Lightning Fast but he still thinks that anyone who’s a detective has the coolest job.

Its very debatable but it is said that the most reputable police department in the world is Scotland Yard of United Kingdom. United Kingdom policing is often presented around the globe as an ideal institution which puts public safety and law enforcement in a perfect marriage. In United Kingdom a Police officer has to serve at least two years as uniform PC before he can be considered a candidate for the detective’s post. Also, every British PC who aspires to become a detective has to successfully complete a couple of the most intense testing systems. First they have to pass the NIE (National Investigator’s Examination), which will qualify them to apply for other stages of the Criminal investigation Department’s training programs.

In the US the system of training a detective is much more spread out and ill designed if you will. First if all, one must attend a law enforcement academy where they will learn a number of policing disciplines spread out in 16 to 24 units. The future of a prospective detective depends on the successful completion of the degree which will then land them a ‘rookie’ or trainee status with a field training officer for a specified period of time. This probation period could be of any length from few months to two years, it entirely depends upon the individual’s ability to learn.

While on the training under the wings of a sergeant with years of experience under his belt, trainee detectives undertake a number of tests and competitive examinations to hone their skills as detectives. They learn various forms of investigative approaches deployed by detectives, protocols of search and seizures. One of the most important subjects all rookies have to master is efficiently collecting and storing evidence.

They also learn the intricacies of court procedures and various laws surrounding the most common crimes committed in a certain geographical unit. The promotion of the trainee officers to the rank of the Detective is entirely at the department’s discretion, and no question can be raised on the decisions, in the interest of public safety.

Going Out On Their Own

There is no universal agreement among the countries when it comes to private detectives. Some countries allow, rather encourage private detectives; believing this could take some of the burden off the law enforcement. While others believe, allowing private detective agencies to operate within society creates a parallel law which is not a healthy approach. Regardless, the private detective ‘industry’ is more flourishing around the world with a mixture of results in various regions.

There are no prerequisites of becoming a private detective, however having a prior law enforcement experience is handy and certainly increases the influx of customers. Ex-detectives, ex-police officers, and in some cases ex-clerks of the Police department are also being reported working as private detectives. These private detectives are expected to perform a whole spectrum of jobs, well in most cases private detective will take any case, big or small, and public service comes first after all.

Very rarely people approach private detectives in case of a crime. However in some countries where law enforcement is not trusted by the people and/or it is corrupt, people tend to trust private detectives way more than police officers. In most countries of the world private detectives are mostly seen either solving a domestic dispute, or keeping an eye on one of the spouse or in some cases both of the partners. In some countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and South America people hire private detectives to investigate the groom to be. They are also known as ‘marriage detectives’. This may sound strange to people living in America or Europe, but it’s certainly not strange for people from Asia and South America.

On a much serious note, private detectives are reported to be particularly helpful in the cases involving missing people or property. Police departments in the cities are becoming increasingly engaged, therefore there is a priority system in place and most serious crimes are given more attention. Looking for a missing person requires deployment of a number of rich resources, and often PDs are not in the position to engage in such activity. Therefore, private detectives work more efficiently since they have only one case to worry about so they invest all their time and energies, and sometimes end up finding the lost person.

Where Are Detectives Headed?

The values and norms of the modern society are increasing exponentially, bringing with it more challenges for the police and detectives alike. With the advancement in technology, criminals have now adopted and adapted the new modes of operation. The most obvious implication can be seen in terms of a surge in cyber-crimes in recent years. Everything is being shared or kept online… from money to sensitive, top secret information.  Breaches in these areas could mean that a family loses their life savings or governments being exposed to dangerous criminals.  For these reasons, law enforcement have found that it is of the utmost importance to stay vigilant against these types of crimes.

21st century detectives are facing a vicious demon that no other generation of detectives had to fight with, the monster of terrorism, both from within and without. There are a number of conflicts taking place around the globe, as some people would have us believe that nowhere is safe anymore. Although it’s not as bleak, however there is no denying the fact there is a certain shift in the ways detectives operate in the cities. Post 9/11 world is a more hostile and challenging place for police and their detectives.

Terrorists both local and alien are skillfully trained with one and only one motive, to disrupt the peace of the modern cities by creating havoc and fear. Detectives are now going through a transformation, rather… an accelerated evolutionary stage in which they have to adapt to the modern dynamics of the society. They have to work extra hard to ensure the safety of the public by staying one step ahead of the terrorists. Although various governments have formed separate ‘Anti-Terror’ units, this does not mean the job of the traditional detectives have become any less relevant.

Another hurdle that modern police and detectives have to face is the lack of funds, in the face of monumental challenges. Some governments do not fully grasp the significance of investing in the police department, which in turn means less funds and resources are available to detectives. Lack of resources means the detectives work in the hostile modern urban environments with their hands virtually tied in terms of what they can and cannot do, which definitely puts public at risk. Governments have to prioritize their policies of public safety, giving every possible resource to detectives and police officers in order for them to ensure public safety.

Fictitious Detectives

Experts suggest the most ancient reference of detectives can be found in the Old Testament in the story of Susanna and the Elders. The story contains all the essential ingredients required for a detective mystery. Another ancient reference is found in the famous chronicles of ‘Alif Laila’ or as it is known in the English speaking world as ‘One Thousand and One nights’ or simply Arabian Nights. There are multiple stories in the Arabian nights in which an apparently complex mystery is solved by some genius using his intellect; most famous of all is ‘The Three Apples’.

How can we forget about the ancient china, in which the system of crime and punishment was much more thought out then European empires of the time? ‘Gong ‘an fiction’ is earliest known record of Chinese detective fiction; it literally means the record of public law courts. Ancient Chinese fiction differs from all other such chronicles found around the world for a variety of reasons. As one may expect, all the detective stories have a touch of philosophy in them along with the hints of supernatural involvement as ghosts possessing good or bad characteristics. Another interesting distinction in the Chinese fiction is the fact that in almost all the cases the detective is either a judge or a magistrate.

In a typical Chinese detective story the criminal and the crime is presented in the beginning of the story. Whereas the whole extent of the evil is later explained with great details. Often the number of cast in a Chinese crime fiction could easily be in hundreds, so it can be a bit hard at times to keep track of the plot.Ancient Indian culture also produced a one of a kind detective, locally known as ‘Khoji’. There is no scarcity of khoji stories up and down the South East Asian Countries. These fictional characters were no ordinary detectives, purely because they did what no other fictional character did anywhere else in the world; they gave birth to real life detectives, real khojis.

These khojis can still be spotted operating all over India and Pakistan especially in the rural areas, working with pin point accuracy. One the most famous traits they all claim to possess is the skill to track someone. These trackers or khojis learn these arts from their forefathers with surprising results. A number of scientific tests have been carried out to analyse the validity of khojis’ knowledge, and every time they have come out successful. There is now a whole surge of westerners learning the art of tracking from these khojis, some of these trained western khojis could be seen operating in London and New York today.

Edgar Allan Poe pioneered the western detective fiction in 1841 when his most fine work ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ was published. Poe’s brilliance devised the framework of detective fiction that all his successors proudly followed ever since. His first publication became an instant hit, which forced him to come up with more creative outbursts. In 1843, Poe published ‘The Mystery of Marie Roget’, and then in 1845 ‘The Purloined Letter’, both received remarkable reception around the English speaking world.

Perhaps the most famous of all detectives in the fiction, Sherlock Holmes was the character that gave the word ‘detective’ a whole new meaning. Brain child of British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes exhibited all the characteristics of a perfect ‘mentalist’ solving crimes around London. Operating from 221B Baker Street in Central London, Sherlock Holmes with the aid of his ex-army officer and medical expert Doctor Watson helped Scotland Yard solve a number of complex crimes. Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the only fictional detective that deploys deduction and attention to detail to all lengths possible.

There is a debate whether Sherlock Holmes was actually a fictional portrayal of a real life detective that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle acquainted with some time in his life.Having said all that, the real life challenges that a police detective has to face on daily basis are much more intricate and mind-boggling then represented in fiction. Not every crime is solved, not every detective is always a winner, but when they do it’s the result of a painstaking process of analysis and evidence collection.

Study, Observe, Then Put The Pieces Together

As you may have guessed, I do not take law enforcement lightly, nobody should. Being a detective is not an easy occupation. You have to have nerves of steel, and not to mention profound dedication to public safety. There are a number of steps that a typical Police Detective must take in order to solve a crime. Every Detective is aware of these SOPs and follows them in one way or the other.

The Research

This is conceivably the most time consuming yet most rewarding stage of a detective’s work. Whoever masters this level could easily see himself getting out of the dark tunnel sooner than others. The research stage for a detective involves extensive street work, which means a detective has to get out there and feel the impact of the crimes committed.

He could be tracking a suspect, visiting the various crime scenes and interviewing a number of witnesses. In most cases, detectives have a small army of informants strategically spread out in the area of operations. These informants are a detective’s eyes and ears. Despite being a detective, an officer has his limitations in terms of who he can meet with and what areas he could be seen in. Informants can do all these seemingly dangerous yet essential jobs for detectives and help draw a clear picture of the circumstances.

Police primarily records the criminal activity, in some cases police catches the perpetrators, however often they are left with the aftermath of the crime and the criminal is at liberty. In both cases detectives are required to plunge in and do what they do best. If criminal is caught, a detective’s job is to carry out extensive research to help the police make a sound case against the criminal; one that could stand in the court of law. In case the evil is at liberty, detectives tend to deploy all their energies to track them and get to them by staying a step ahead.


Almost all the reputable police departments in the world have under the disposal a forensic lab, which is a crucial part of investigative operations. Perhaps the most significant discipline of modern detectives, forensics could certainly assist to decisively close a case by presenting hard evidence that no court can rule out. Forensic evidence untangles some of the most complex crimes.

No matter how clever a criminal is they always leave something behind. A dumb criminal could leave their DNA at the crime scene, whereas a clever perpetrator may leave something unknowingly, something that only a well-trained detective could find. And forensics could certainly help him achieve this by providing all the necessary assistance and technology that could widen his scope of operations. The complexity of the justice system around the world, especially in the US, demands the evidence to be conclusive and unpretentious, a forensics team could definitely achieve that.

No matter how much research a detective has carried out, unless he has some solid evidence in his hands he would be unable to prepare a robust case. Modern detectives rely heavily on the forensics and left no stone unturned to master this discipline.

Archives and Records

One of the many blessings of the modern era is that humans tend to store and archive almost everything. This could be annoying for those who are storing and maintaining them, however it’s an extremely resourceful treasure for detectives to go to, since it can help them clarify the picture.

Detectives may have to go back in the old archives to pull out previous criminal records of a criminal or even a witness to form a decision on their testimony. Post Edward Snowden, the debate on the privacy and what law enforcement could look into has been heavily scrutinized.

Although the process has now become more transparent and lengthy, detectives can still gain access to a number of archives and records after following proper protocols set out by government and other independent agencies.

What Are Those Detectives Able To Do?

Common perception regarding detectives is deeply flawed.  People think detectives are all encompassing, all knowing supernatural beings. This is clearly the product of the misrepresentation of the law enforcement in the main stream media. In reality, detectives are more humans then most of us, simply because their job is to protect their fellow human beings, what could be nobler and more humane then this. However, they are no supernatural entities for sure, let’s just say they are more clever and more attentive then an average human being, let’s leave it at that.

In any good police department, the job of a detective is fairly wide. The responsibilities of a detective are split into a variety of disciplines. Each sub-department is led by an expert of that field. It is very rare to find a detective who is all knowing, who switches between departments haphazardly, instead detectives tend to form a team where different experts work as a unit for the bigger cause. Let us skim through some of the prominent departments a detective is likely to be involved with.


Perhaps the most quoted and most portrayed department of the law enforcement is ‘homicide’. A common mistake occurs when viewers unknowingly conflate homicide with criminal murder. The scope of homicide is much wider, to put it simply, killing of one human by another human is classed as homicide. Now as you can imagine this could go in a number of ways. Typically homicide department is called into action once the crime has been committed. Therefore a detective working in homicide had to determine the cause of the killing, and at the same time prevent any more killings that could result from the first homicide.

Robbery, Burglary, and Auto theft

Murders are not as common as robberies and thefts. Bigger cities are evidently more prone to robberies and thefts then the country side and small towns. However there is no hard and fast rule regarding how and when a robber might hit. Detectives and Police officers working in this department need to be more on the edge since it involves more attention to detail. There is more risk involved in this department. Often officers are called on a scene where there is a robbery in progress, or someone has already stolen a car and officers have to make the chase. In this sort of environment job of a detective becomes much more challenging and demanding, since the life of their comrades is at stake.

Organized Crime

This is not everyone’s cookie, if one wishes to be detective to curb on organized crime; they have to be on top of their game all the time. Organized crime rings are ruthless. They don’t sprout out to existence overnight; there is always a long chain of crimes behind them. Those involved in organized crimes are vicious people, and they know all legal loopholes, and one small slip by the investigator could bring horrendous consequences. Organized crime department is arguably the most exigent discipline of law enforcement which requires extreme agility and almost supernatural mental stability.

Cyber Crimes

Recent surge in technology has brought innumerable benefits to modern humans; however there is a darker side of the web. Well it is all in the name, for common folks it’s not possible to fully grasp the reach and intricacies of the web, but some people definitely do. Most of these people are ‘good guys’ like your local computer expert or other programmers designing apps tirelessly day and night. However there is no shortage of individuals who have evil designs and who conspire to commit crimes using anonymity of the web. To curb cyber-crimes, leading police department around the globe hire expert ‘hackers’ known as ethical hackers. These experts work alongside detectives to help train them in the world of cyber-crime. The range of cyber-crime is wide and complex, starting from simple harassment to terrorism. With every passing moment the significance of this department increases exponentially.

Detectives Aren’t Picked From A Barrel

The integral part of the law enforcement agencies around the globe, a detective is primarily an investigator who looks beyond the obvious and detaches the fact from fiction. He detects the anomalies and incongruities within a particular case and links all the dots to make a picture that is the most accurate representation of the wrongdoing at hand.

Traditionally detectives are believed to have some sort of supernatural powers to spot the cracks and resolve the most hideous transgressions and bring the most perilous criminals to the court of justice. A detective monitors all the evidence presented to him with great attention, nothing big or small can leave the eye, since one small slip from the detective could mean life and death of a human being. The job is so multifaceted for the detectives that sometimes it is the hardest thing in the world to clearly define a detective’s job in one simple phrase.

How Do You Become A Detective?

There is no one universally known process to become a detective. Various Police departments around the world have different procedures to select detectives for their force.

If I have to come up with some sort of similarities between various procedures I must say that there has to be a complex and analytically tough written exam that a candidate has to pass. But there is a catch; in most cases you have to be a police officer prior to the examination, and for that there is whole different procedure one has to go through, complexity of this test varies from country to country.

In some systems there is no compulsion of being a police officer before applying for a detective’s job. Civilians with extraordinary skills can apply for the job, and based on the results of their initial assessment, they could join the police force as detectives. In this case there is no need of any prior knowledge of law and policing, since all the training is provided once the person joins the law enforcement.

There is an ever continuing argument regarding the prerequisites for detectives. A majority of experts believe that most logical approach would be to select the brightest of the police officers with the required skills to go up the notch and help solve crimes rather than policing the society. This does sound the most plausible approach, since a police officer knows the law inside out (in most of the cases) and may also possess the extensive knowledge of the geography and dynamics of the city or town he is supposed to be policing. However a handful of criminologists deem a detective’s job to be an entirely distinct discipline then mere policing. Therefore, a whole different approach is needed to train the detectives, who could develop the aptitude and ability to spot what a typical police officer may miss during the course of a criminal investigation.If you know about some distinctive processes that would help a person become a detective please open up about it and comment below or you could contact us directly about it.