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Homicide detectives investigate and solve murder cases. They start out as police officers on patrol and eventually are recommended for promotion to detective by their superior. A strong academic background, as well as experience in police work, is required to become a qualified homicide detective. The work of a homicide detective can vary from day to day, depending on the stage of the investigation. A homicide detective works in the field to gather evidence and then writes up detailed reports at the office.
Becoming a Homicide Detective
To become a homicide detective, an individual must have a four-year bachelor’s degree from a college or university, typically in criminal justice. Undergraduates learn the fundamentals of criminal law, evidence, forensics and investigation. The next step is to land a job as a law enforcement officer and undergo police academy training. Obtaining a graduate degree may help in becoming promoted to detective after three years on patrol. Once the commanding officer puts in a request to join the homicide division, the police officer must pass a competitive exam to become a detective.
On the Job
A detective is a plainclothes investigator assigned to a criminal case. He collects evidence and gathers data in order to solve criminal cases. Homicide detectives specialize in cases involving murder. Cases are assigned on a rotating basis, and the detective works on the case until a suspect is arrested. The homicide detective gathers facts by conducting interviews, looking into records and watching the behavior of suspects. They may be called upon to participate in a raid or to make an arrest. The detective handles the case until either the suspect is convicted or the case is dropped. Sometimes a homicide detective is assigned to an interagency task force.
In the Field and In the Office
Homicide detectives work in the field to investigate the scene when a crime is first discovered. They then talk to witnesses and take note of evidence by paying attention to even the slightest detail. Often, a clue that is not evident to others can turn into the key to solving the case. In the office, homicide detectives write up clear and accurate reports so they can follow all leads to solve the case successfully. These reports may also prove valuable in a court of law. Detectives also review other cases and analyze their notes.
Collaborating with Experts
The homicide detective may meet with experts to conduct tests and analyze evidence. Building relationships with experts like DNA specialists, medical examiners, ballistic experts, forensic anthropologists and entomologists can help the detective solve the case.
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Sharon Penn is a writer based in South Florida. A professional writer since 1981, she has created numerous materials for a Princeton advertising agency. Her articles have appeared in "Golf Journal" and on industry blogs. Penn has traveled extensively, is an avid golfer and is eager to share her interests with her readers. She holds a Master of Science in Education.