Homicide detectives are responsible for investigating murders and apprehending the individuals responsible. Homicide detectives are veteran law enforcement officers who have developed their skills through on-the-job experience, departmental training and academic instruction. With the advent of new technologies like DNA testing and digital forensics, criminal investigative procedures have become highly technical in nature.
Homicide detectives may not manage the evidence collection and analysis personally, but they supervise these and other aspects of homicide cases. They collaborate closely with forensic technicians for any leads on who may be responsible. Once the evidence produces some potential leads, detectives may employ traditional methods of investigation like interrogation, surveillance and records checks to build a case for prosecution.
Detectives are usually the leaders of investigative teams, delegating responsibilities to uniformed officers and subordinates. In situations where experienced police work is required including extracting information from witnesses and questioning suspects, detectives play a lead role. They often become critical to the prosecutorial case by providing expert testimony that links the criminal evidence to the accused.
How to Become a Homicide Detective Through Police Department Training
The first step in learning how to become a homicide detective is to pass the physical and cognitive tests necessary to qualify for a job with the police department. Physical evaluations involve strenuous runs and exercises, while the written tests typically assess math, reading comprehension and written communication skills. If hired, recruits must complete a challenging training program at the police academy.
After serving for several years as a uniformed officer, law enforcement officials may request a promotion to detective status, or may elect to take the detectives examination. Departments that review candidates’ job performance are primarily concerned with professional excellence, intellectual ability and effective use of departmental resources.
The detective’s examination is primarily concerned with police procedures and investigative techniques commonly employed by detectives. Although homicide detectives are not required to possess a college degree, many do obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. Many police organizations offer classroom instruction, forensic and investigative training for prospective homicide detectives.
Candidates who pass the exam may petition to join the homicide division if jobs are available. While acceptance is at the discretion of commanding officers, almost all detectives who continue to request assignment in the homicide division eventually secure jobs as homicide detectives.
Homicide Detective Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for detectives and criminal investigators was $86,940, as reported in May 2020. Nationally, detectives in the top ten percent earned $146,000 or more. Detectives working in local, municipal police departments earned an average annual salary of $77,120, while those in federal agencies were the highest earning in the field, making an average salary of $111,880.
2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for Detectives and Criminal Investigators based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2022.
Homicide Detective Job Description
Homicide detective jobs involve taking on the following responsibilities:
- Manage a crime scene to prevent unnecessary intrusions or disturbances
- Allocate personnel to perform investigative duties
- Question witnesses to the murder or related incidents
- Reconstruct the murder based on eyewitness reports and forensic evidence
- Determine the motive, method and intent for the murder
- Testify as to the relationship between the evidence and suspects
- Collaborate with other agencies to solve cases