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What qualifications are needed to be promoted to a detective?

What qualifications are needed to be promoted to a detective after you become a police officer? Generally, how long does it take to receive the promotion? #police #criminal-justice #law-enforcement

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Kim’s Answer

Best of the Village

Hi again!


Large agencies test for promotions. Here (Texas) if an agency is covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (police union) the promotions requirements are spelled out in the contract. Some of the agencies have the contracts posted on-line.


When testing, they will usually tell you what to study, and sometimes even how many questions will come from each source. A lot of officers take leave time to study. It is very competitive. Sometimes, in addition to the test, you get extra points depending on your length of service. I would expect the tests to cover investigative techniques. Everything from blood splatters to cyber crimes.


In working your way up, I would recommend the first position to go for would be Field Training Officer (FTO). You can usually go for that with 2 years of service. It is a very responsible position, as you are training Rookies how to do the job, do it right, and stay alive. Your evaluations will make or break that person's career, however, you don't want to just approve everybody, because if they are not capable of being a good officer, they will possibly end up getting you killed. FTOs are selected based on attitude and knowledge. Get all the extra training that you can.


Do as much as you can to get exposed to all aspects of the job. The more you learn, the more marketable you are!

Thank you comment icon Thanks for this answer! It was exactly what I wanted to know! Very helpful! Christina
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Jeff’s Answer

Hi Christina-


It really varies from agency to agency. As stated above, some departments have exams, others are lateral transfers, etc. Also, it depends on openings. When I first got our department, it took quite some time to make it into detectives. You really needed to learn how to be a good cop first. Over the years, the time to get into detectives has dropped, but the requirements are still really the same. Many officers will work really hard right before an opening or promotional test. It is very obvious.


The first things you need to do as a young officer prior to becoming a detective are:



  • Learn the job as a patrol officer, and really learn the city or area as well as residents of that area.
    -Learn crime trends in your area/city as well as where many of the criminals are- this helps when working certain cases.
    -Learn good investigative skills as well as good report writing.

  • Learn to be patient. Detectives need to learn how to walk- not run. That way you don't miss details.

  • Learn how not to lock in or lock out information, suspects, etc.
    -Develop a good reputation as a solid, dependable, honest officer, so that follows you on your cases and in court.


Hopefully that helps-
Lt Jeff Adam
Elgin Police Dept.

Thank you comment icon Thanks for your advice! Christina
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Scott D.’s Answer

In most agencies detective is just a lateral transfer and not a promotion. Becoming proficient at ones current job is what sets one apart from the competition.

Thank you comment icon Thanks for responding! Christina
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Chris’s Answer

Well, in order to be a good detective, you need to be a good officer first and foremost. Start by taking care of your job and avoiding unnecessary conflicts. People skills are very important. Take the time to relate to people you converse with. This will develop your interviewing skills. As you grow your Beat Officer skills, learn from the officers and detectives around you. Don't be afraid to ask questions and never stop learning.

Thank you comment icon Thanks for your advice! Christina
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Chris’s Answer

If I can suggest a couple things.


One, as a police officer, find out and do anything you can to help with a case even if it simply means exhausting what you can do at the beginning of the investigation.


Two, ask the detective what you can do to help. Not only will it show interest but it'll also help you conduct better investigations as a police officer.


Three, while investigating, as you start to form conclusions, do your best to prove yourself wrong. It'll help you form a case that stands up in court because you'll be looking for the holes in your case and help you find other leads, suspects, etc that many investigators stop looking for. This quality alone will help you stand out.


Best of luck,


Officer Chris Morgan
City of North Richland Hills

Thank you comment icon Thanks for your advice! Very helpful. Christina
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