If the thought of tracking down criminals as a super sleuth excite you, a career as a police detective or a private investigator could be in your future. Investigators with the police department oversee the collection of evidence and witness statements in cases involving criminal activities. Private detectives are hired by clients to search for missing persons or to conduct independent investigations on people, facts, suspected affairs or illegal activities, or missing items.
Curiosity is essential for a detective. Developing hunches based on knowledge, instinct and evidence and following up on them is often what leads to an arrest or fact-finding in an investigation. Detectives can’t leave any stone unturned in trying to get to the bottom of a case. This includes interviewing witnesses and suspects, examining evidence and getting help from forensic specialists to gather blood, ballistics or other DNA evidence that turns up at a crime scene.
A detective needs to be extremely observant and have an excellent memory to retain conversations and visual images over a period of time. When interviewing witnesses, observing nonverbal gestures, facial expressions and nervous habits can offer insight into the psyche and motives of a person of interest. Piecing together a case often involves the ability to combine evidence with results of interviews and instinctive reactions to behaviors of suspects and witnesses.
A detective needs to use logic and reasoning to investigate a case and put together a conclusion based on facts. Remaining objective helps the detective avoid making early judgments, coming to conclusions too quickly and missing out on opportunities to consider other suspects or alternative scenarios. By objectively gathering evidence, looking at the facts and organizing a case, you better equip a prosecutor to win in a trial.
A high level of integrity is necessary when you perform a job in which your efforts can lead to bringing people to justice. A strong understanding of the law and a willingness to follow it are essential aspects of having integrity on the job. Police departments or agencies rely on the ethical nature of detectives to maintain their credibility. Letting your own feelings or personal desires get in the way of your ability to remain objective on a case can damage your career and discredit your case. If called to testify in court, dishonesty can also land you in jail for perjury, cost you money and ruin a criminal case.
A job that involves interviewing witnesses and suspects inherently requires strong communication skills. You have to present questions clearly and assertively, listen effectively to the responses and take good notes on what you hear. Additionally, detectives must communicate internally with other members of the police force and crime lab in working a case. In a courtroom, verbal presentation skills help the detective convey to the jury what went on during an investigation if called by the prosecutor to testify.