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How long should you being involved in the law enforcement before trying to promote to a K9 Officer or Criminal Investigator?

As a college student, I'm now working harder to get involved with the police department. Within the past few years, two of my options/passions were to become a K9 Officer or Criminal Investigator. However, I'm not sure how long something like that would take. What is an estimate?

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Kim’s Answer

Chassity,

A lot depends on where you work and how much exposure you get to certain things. As an airport police officer, we didn't get much major crime. So, even something as simple as securing a crime scene wasn't exactly second-nature to us. Our cohorts downtown were busy handling robberies and murders, and could figure out all the steps without having to ask for help.

Anyway, I felt that it took an officer about 18 months to truly develop self-confidence and expertise. I would say that by two years an officer "on-the-way-up" should be an FTO (Field Training Officer - they train the cadets one-on-one once they graduate from the academy). You could also look at trying to teach in the academy. I think at two years you could also start applying for Detective positions, K-9, and other assignments. It's good to let them know that you want to do more, be more, even if you aren't selected the first try.

Do your best, have a good attitude, volunteer for overtime and special assignments, get involved in the Police Explorer Program or Police Athletic League, or Police Band, or whatever. Do extra to promote the police dept and goodwill between it and the community. You will be noticed. And of course, make good arrests and write good reports.

Now, San Antonio is a lot different than NY, so, this is pretty general, hopefully someone from NY will also answer!
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Stephen’s Answer

Chassity,

I see many questions that are poorly worded and many of them are written by people that clearly don't appear to be dedicated to actually seeking the information they are asking for. I appreciate your question and can tell that you have genuine interest, so I'll do my best to explain.

As Kim stated, the biggest factor here is going to be the department you work for. The size, type, and location of the department will make your answers here vary a great deal. One of the misgivings of a small police or sheriff's department is that they don't see much action. This couldn't be farther from the truth is some ways as with a smaller staff, they must deal with all of the calls that come in, no matter what type of call it is. As a detective for a smaller department, I had the opportunity and responsibility to lead investigations in all sorts of fields. From drugs, to burglaries, homicides to sex crimes, I had to investigate it all. My biggest asset in doing these investigations was definitely the patrol division. I worked hand in hand with my patrol officers to investigate and follow up with my cases. A brand new patrol officer could be expected to do many things where a large department would call in a criminal investigator or detective. It was also nice to be able to teach an interested patrol officer the many skills that I developed as a detective. From interviewing to evidence collection, if they were willing to learn, I was happy to teach! I can tell you that the majority of what you need as a criminal investigator or detective, you learn from working as a patrol officer on the streets. This is where you begin to hone those interview techniques and where you begin to see things through the eyes of an investigator.

So long answer short, I would say that there isn't really a "written in stone" answer to your question regarding criminal investigator. Our department required an officer to have 4 years experience before you could be promoted to detective, but I know that this is not the case everywhere. We also had a program where we would rotate an assigned patrol officer to the detective division if they were interested for a term of 6 months to a year or so. If you have the interest and you continue to work as hard as it sounds like you have, I wouldn't worry about how long it will take you. Get your education, get hired, and start building that experience. Be humble, be kind, and be safe. You'll do a great job.

As far as your question regarding K-9, our department didn't have one, but it takes an experienced officer (I would say 4 years or more) who is ready to dedicate a WHOLE lot of their time and life to that position.

I hope this helps a bit. Good luck!

-Det. Stephen Brunner-Murphy (Ret.)
Hamilton Police Department

Stephen recommends the following next steps:

Keep working with local departments where you are. Volunteer with them if you can or join their reserve program.
Continue your education and get that out of the way. Many departments will pay you more if you have a degree and you will be higher on the hiring list.
Get hired and do the job you are assigned to do. It doesn't matter if you're investigating a stolen candy bar or a homicide, be thorough and use your skills.
Be ready to learn. You will learn every day as a police officer. You'll never know it all, but if you work hard, someday you'll know where to find any answer.
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Jordan’s Answer

I always believed that 5 years as a general uniform patrol office have you experience, maturity and a sound background in policing before going to any specialty unit such as k9 or Criminal Investigations. I moved into a detective role after five and a half years spending the next 29 years as a detective and the supervisor and watch commander. Everyone needs a baseline of knowledge, experience and confidence in addition to common sense, good ethics and ability to understand what you are doing. Five years seems good to me for a well rounded officer to move into specialty branches.
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James’s Answer

It's important to get patrol experience before transferring to another Division/Specialty. You need the exposure that patrol affords. And remember, as a first responder, you are the first investigator on the scene. Being in uniform does not diminish the importance of your observations, comments made to you by witnesses or potential suspects. Many times suspects make unsolicited 'res gestae' statements to the first officers on the scene in an attempt to justify what criminal conduct they have committed. Your documentation of what you encountered can be of great importance to the lead detective and the prosecutors office.
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