2 answers

Is most of your day spent working when being a detective?

Asked Boston, Massachusetts

I want to know how much of my day will be used due to this since thats what i want to be. #detective

2 answers

SarahMiller’s Answer

Updated Boston, Massachusetts

I"m not sure if you are talking about working as a police detective or a detective/private investigator. For the private investigator / detective, you do a lot of research, often with a computer--e.g., credit checks, LexisNexis searches, and Internet searches. You're also handling relationships with clients, and there can be travel.

If you're talking about working as a police detective, please clarify!

CareerVillage’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

Look at this site for a day in the life of a policy detective--repasted below:

In a narrow, rectangle-shaped room with a single, tiny square window, Detective Mike Norton begins his day. Working in the Alameda County sheriff’s Crimes Against Persons unit, he never is sure how it will start or how his day will end.

On a rainy Tuesday, Norton let us into his world. This is his story.

10 a.m. — Norton begins his day by going through reports to make sure nothing suspicious was overlooked. He usually goes through about a dozen such reports a day.

“We are like goalies; we try not let this stuff get past us,” Norton said.

The four-member Crimes Against Persons unit predominately works homicides but handles other cases of violence or threats of violence.

They work in the Eden Township Substation in San Leandro, which is also headquarters for the sheriff’s investigation and patrol units. Built in the 1940s, the building was originally medical office space.

The building’s electrical system is too old to handle much. Norton’s computer shuts down twice after something — a space heater is the likely suspect — short-circuits the system.

Norton’s squad’s biggest cases are homicides that occur in unincorporated Alameda County. But they investigate any crime against people. One of Norton’s current cases is a witness intimidation case.

A relative of a domestic violence suspect allegedly threatened the victim. Believing the relative may show up at the suspect’s arraignment, Norton and fellow Detective Todd Hoos plan to arrest him

at the courthouse. Norton prints out a flier with information and a picture of the suspect — a man with a bushy mustache and bushy eyebrows.

The arraignment doesn’t begin in Hayward until 2 p.m. Until then, they hit the streets to work on another case.

11:15 a.m. — The wipers swish on the windshield of an unmarked Ford Taurus. Norton and Hoos drive toward the unincorporated Cherryland neighborhood. It was there June 28 that Gary Jones was shot and killed in broad daylight at a gas station at Lewelling and Mission boulevards.

The 38-year-old San Leandro man had just left a nearby medical marijuana dispensary. Detectives believe a gold or silver minivan followed Jones to the station and a van passenger stole the drugs from Jones’ car.

When Jones tried to chase the thief, the van driver shot him and drove off.

Hoos parks the car at the spot where Jones was shot.

Leaving the engine idling, and the wipers moving, he heads inside to talk to the attendant and to hand out fliers about the case.

Hoos returns, telling Norton the attendant already has fliers posted.

Next, the gray Taurus heads to the Paradise Boulevard area, where the getaway van was last seen. Norton and Hoos believe the suspects either live in this neighborhood or know it well.

“If you’re not familiar with it, you wouldn’t know where to go,” Hoos said of the neighborhood.

The detectives have become familiar with these streets. They’ve been here numerous times, trying to spot the suspects’ vehicle or to find someone who knows what happened.

They pull over. The wind picks up speed as they get out of the car.

“You can’t solve cases sitting behind your desk,” said Norton, quoting his colleague Detective Mike Godlewski.

“We’re going to knock on some doors and see what happens,” he said.

They don’t have much luck. People are either not at home, don’t have information, or don’t speak much English.

The two finally hear something promising from two men and a teen girl. The detectives talk at length with them.

Norton says later they may know something that could help the case: “That was actually pretty good contact.”

1 p.m. — Norton, Hoos and the detectives who work both “hot” and “cold” cases have lunch with their supervising sergeant. It’s a squad tradition. They head to Harry’s Hofbrau on East 14th, where the servers know them well.

Lunch looks and sounds like a family dinner, with everyone trying to catch up with one another and the day’s news. There is discussion of a half-wolf dog in Castro Valley that deputies eventually killed and speculation about the New Hampshire primary.

Like any family, there’s good-natured teasing. Someone makes a joke about how another detective isn’t funny. Another one takes a jab when he reveals that he used to watch “General Hospital” with his wife.

Norton, 33, is the one of the squad’s youngest members. He’s a police officer’s son. His background on his work computer screen is a staged photo of his father writing his grandfather a ticket.

But Norton says it was his high school football coach, a San Francisco police officer, who got him interested in law enforcement. After stints in other jobs, he applied at the sheriff’s office 12 years ago. It’s a decision he says he doesn’t regret.

2 p.m. — Norton and Hoos stand outside the arraignment courtroom, on the lookout for the man with the bushy mustache. It looks like the suspect is a no-show. There will be no arrest today.

There is never any guarantee on how a day is going to go. Sometimes there’s a lot of waiting, other times there’s no time to catch their breath.

“It’s either 20 miles an hour or 100 miles an hour,” Norton said.

Before working Crimes Against Persons, Norton worked three years in robbery. In robbery, once a case was done, it was done. In this unit, Norton said, cases stay with detectives until they are solved or until they leave the squad.

Norton receives a call from someone wanting evidence from a 2005 case, or “caper,” as Norton calls them.

“I wanted to do something different,” Norton said. “This is something different.”

5 p.m. — While many people prepare to go home for the day, Norton and the other detectives in his department still have two hours to go. Detectives are scheduled for 10 hours a day, four days a week, but that doesn’t mean those are the only hours they work. Any time a homicide or major case occurs, regardless of day or time, a homicide detective is called to the scene.

But when nothing is going on, it’s time for report writing. The gap between when a homicide occurs and when it goes to trial is generally two years or longer. Defense attorneys will go through reports wanting to know exactly what officers did and with whom they spoke. The reports are detailed, down to the number of people who lived in a house.

Norton started his day going over reports, and it is how he will end his day.

“It’s not the glitz and glamour you see on TV,” Norton said. “It’s reading and going through reports.”

working as a SHERIFF’S detective

Hours: 10 hours a day, four days a week, but called whenever a homicide occurs

Base salary range: $72,217.60 to $92,788.80

Experience and skills: Must have police patrol background and good interpersonal, reading and writing skills. Detectives for units are picked by the unit’s sergeant, the supervising lieutenant and captain.

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