The most popular cable channel among women is Investigation Discovery. Dedicated to the true crime genre, the channel receives nearly 1 million viewers.
We as a culture have become fascinated by criminology over the years. Whether you’re searching through the library, watching TV or playing a game, police stories can be found anywhere.
One genre that seems to be making a comeback these days is detective fiction. The ability to figure things out with just a look at the world around us is something we all want. Is that how it really works, though?
What is it really like to join the detective career? We’ll explain all of that in the paragraphs below.
1. Private Vs. Police: What’s the Difference?
We’ve probably all heard of private investigators. They’re supposedly the loose-canon hardboiled types who make up for their lack of people skills with their ability to bring murderers to justice. There’s basically no truth to this.
Private investigators are detectives who do not work for the police. This means that they have a lot more liberty in how they investigate a case, assuming they do it legally, and a wider array of cases.
The downside, potentially, is that you’re not going to work a lot of high-profile cases. Serious criminal investigations will be handled by the police. Private investigators often run background checks, watch people to see if they’re defrauding a company or being unfaithful to a lover.
The other big difference is that private investigators are sometimes self-employed, while police detectives are always on the clock. They sometimes work weekdays and get weekends off, but they’re occasionally on-call during nights or weekends.
2. Detective Work
Regardless of what type of detective you choose to become, there are certain tasks you can expect to perform. Most of your time will be spent in interviews. Whether you’re talking to witnesses or a potential suspect, you will need to keep track of what they say.
Regardless of what happens, it is always important to be polite and patient with the witness and show as much sympathy as you can. Also, try to let the witness lead the conversation. In a good exchange, the witness will be talking most of the time.
This changes when interviewing a potential suspect but not that much. Despite what the TV shows will tell you, police usually don’t ‘get tough’ on suspects. It’s a balancing act between making the suspect feel uncomfortable and isolated and offering them sympathy.
If you don’t let them deny their involvement, and instead encourage them to tell their own story, you should eventually get a confession. This is known as the Reid Technique.
Keep in mind, there are upsides and downsides to this. The good news is that up to 80% of suspects waive the right to a lawyer and their right to remain silent, so getting a confession is a lot easier.
The bad news is that getting a confession is so easy that you will sometimes get false confessions from innocent people who have convinced themselves they did something.
3. Working with Evidence
Like any other cop, a detective can’t search for evidence without a search warrant. You will need to ask a judge to issue this.
Once the warrant has been issued, there are certain rules you will need to follow. Crime scene investigation and evidence collection are all about avoiding contamination. To that end, it is not uncommon for law enforcement to dress in gloves, special shoes, and even masks so it doesn’t happen.
Also, in a typical crime scene, there will usually be someone guarding the area and monitoring everyone who entered and exited and when. Any evidence you find is sent off to be analyzed. You can learn more about evidence and how to manage it here.
On the subject of evidence analysis and search warrants, and various related matters, it’s time to dispel some myths. The first thing to point out is that it takes a lot longer to get things done than Hollywood would have you believe. Getting a search warrant will take at least a day, and evidence analysis can take months.
Also, even if you try your best, the evidence is likely to be contaminated anyways. This is largely owing to the nature of your work. When somebody is a victim of a violent crime or even a suicide, it is not uncommon for them or their families to seek out respect and comfort.
Families of a murder victim may have tried to clean away blood or other body fluids to make the body seem more peaceful. A victim found partially or fully naked may have been dressed to restore some dignity to the deceased. These are good-hearted and well-intentioned gestures, but some evidence is bound to be compromised.
4. Your Days in Court
As the leading investigator on various crimes, you will often be called upon to testify in court. This may seem stressful, but the key to the whole thing is taking good notes. Basically, just be organized enough to confidently and accurately answer questions and you should be okay.
5. A Few More Things to Note
The last few things to note are that detectives don’t have some of the same perks we see on TV. They do dress in plain clothes, but that doesn’t mean a three-piece suite. It’s more often just a shirt and tie.
Also, detectives don’t drive shiny, fast cars. They will often drive used, somewhat older cars to look nondescript and avoid attracting attention.
What to Expect from a Detective Career
A detective career can offer a lot of interesting opportunities and experiences. It’s almost nothing like we see on television, but it’s still unique and challenging in a lot of ways.
Your days will be spent investigating, questioning and testifying in court. If that’s the type of things that interest you, consider becoming a detective.
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