Police Gang Unit Careers and Job Description

Gang units serve in some of the most challenging environments known to law enforcement.  Gangs usually operate in densely populated urban areas.  Many gangs have roots in insular communities that openly resist authority.  Some gangs are also components of national or international networks, which provide access to illicit streams of revenue, weapons and narcotics.

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In order to effectively police these extremely dangerous groups, police jobs within gang units may involve employing a variety of methods.  They may insert officers into the community as undercover operatives.  These operatives may collect intelligence from gang members or infiltrate the gang. Uniformed officers may help suppress gang activities by patrolling neighborhoods that harbor gangs.  Investigators on gang units develop networks of informants who are willing to provide the latest news about gang activities.

Police Gang Unit Job Description

Gang unit police jobs involve performing the following duties:

  • Monitor gang members and their activities
  • Develop intelligence assets that reveal gang objectives, resources and plans
  • Investigate gang-related crimes and apprehend perpetrators
  • Work with state, local and national law enforcement organizations to dismantle gangs
  • Seize weapons and narcotics from gangs
  • Rescue smuggled or enslaved persons


How to Become a Gang Unit Officer

The steps to becoming a gang unit officer begin with joining a police department as a uniformed patrol officer.  Most law enforcement agencies require candidates to have at least a high school diploma, but larger organizations may require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.  Candidates must also possess exceptional physical strength, stamina and dexterity.  These abilities will be evaluated during the hiring process and while attending the police academy.

Once a job in a police department has been obtained, officers who wish to serve in a gang unit must petition their commanding officer.  The challenges of policing gangs may prevent new recruits from joining gang units, but experienced patrol officers should be able to serve without significant difficulty.

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Gang unit investigators must first be promoted to the status of detective. This may require a review by senior officers or the successful passage of a detective’s exam.  Once achieved, detectives may petition for a position with the gang unit.  This is a very challenging assignment that many detectives are unwilling to take; so securing these jobs should not be difficult.

Training Components for Police Gang Units

Gang unit training is typically broken into three components:

  • Suppression
  • Intelligence
  • Investigations

Many of these functions are reserved for detectives who have received criminal investigation training.  Training also involves developing a level of communication with known gang members so as to be able to gather information about the structure of gangs, members, and activities.  Training also covers the critical role of identifying criminal gang activity and apprehending perpetrators.

Gang Unit Salary

In almost any law enforcement agency, the members of a gang unit would consist of both uniformed police officers who patrol areas where gang activity is known to occur, as well as undercover officers and detectives responsible for disrupting crime with sting operations and conducting investigations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers earned an average salary of $70,750 as of May 2021, while detectives and criminal investigators earned an average salary of $90,370.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for police and sheriff’s patrol officers and detectives and criminal investigators. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2022.

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