Believe it not, there are more than just one or two types of jobs in criminal investigation. Criminal investigators are responsible for determining the circumstances and perpetrators of crimes. In order to gather this information, they use many methods such as analyzing evidence collected at the crime scene, conducting background checks of financial and phone records and interviewing witnesses. Although most careers in criminal investigation are found within local, state and government law enforcement agencies, some careers are available in the private sector.
Perpetrators commit many crimes with use of a computer. Computer forensic investigators must find, recover, collect and analyze data from computers that have been used in part or entirely to commit a crime. Some examples of computer-related crimes include child pornography, stalking, Internet harassment and hacking. They write detailed reports of their conclusions and may be called to testify.
Crime Scene Investigators
Crime scene investigators ensure that all evidence discovered and collected at crime scenes are processed correctly and preserved. They are responsible for completing ballistics reports if a gun was used in a crime, examining trace evidence such as fibers and hair, analyzing fingerprints and photographing the scene. Although they don’t generally interview witnesses, they are a critical component of the criminal justice system.
In some cases, if the police or the victim of a crime believes that local law enforcement officers missed information or made a mistake during the investigation, they may hire a private investigator. These detectives perform independent investigations that may uncover evidence or information initially overlooked by law enforcement, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private investigators may assist on other types of cases, including helping to locate missing people, providing background checks, and assisting through divorce procedures to uncover potential infidelity and ensure the parties disclose all financial resources.
Agents working in the federal government investigate military and federal crimes. For instance, special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are responsible for investigating crimes such as serial murders, bank robberies and kidnapping cases if the victim is transported across states. Since local law enforcement officers are typically the first to respond, FBI agents may also work with police to carry out the case. Federal investigators who work in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) handle crimes involving the Navy, and those who are employed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigate crimes related to drug trafficking.
State and Local Law Enforcement
The most common criminal investigation career path is that of a police officer at a local or state law enforcement agency. Uniformed officers are typically the first to respond to a crime, and the are responsible for beginning the investigation by interviewing witnesses for information and protecting the crime scene. In smaller law enforcement departments, they be tasked with carrying out the entire investigation. In larger departments, police officers generally pass the cases on to detectives in the appropriate department such as narcotics or homicide.
Related Resource: How Do You Become a Criminal Profiler?
As you can see, there are a number of careers for those interested in the field of criminal justice. From on-scene investigators who go out into the field to those who work behind the curtains to ensure an investigation runs as smoothly as possible, all of the types of jobs in criminal investigation play a role in identifying perpetrators and solving crimes.