The Advanced Criminal Investigation Course: An Innovative Approach to Detective In-Service Training

Article excerpt

Law enforcement administrators know that providing training for their personnel remains an important, yet oftentimes difficult, task. Offering advanced training to experienced personnel, such as detectives, proves troublesome because of their responsibilities and schedules. Traditional classroom-based training that requires officers to attend for several consecutive weeks can cause significant staff shortages that adversely affect a department's investigative operations. While scheduling conflicts, time constraints, and operational concerns impact even the most critical advanced-training needs, administrators can find alternate training methods that work within these confines.


The Suffolk County, New York, Police Department created an innovative and cost-effective in-service advanced-training program to address the needs of its experienced detectives. Of its 2,800 sworn members, over 500 are detectives or detective supervisors. Their assignments range from general investigations to specialized crimes, such as homicides, robberies, and arsons. All detectives have attended the department's required basic criminal investigation course, and many have completed courses and seminars in their areas of specialization. However, no organized, in-service training program existed for detectives assigned for many years to investigative work. The chief of detectives decided that the department should have an advanced criminal investigation course as an update for these seasoned detectives.

The overall vision for the new course required that it be informative, interesting, and, most important, a primarily hands-on, outside-the-classroom experience. Enrollment in the course would be totally voluntary, and participants would need a minimum of 3 years of service as detectives in addition to several years as patrol officers. With these basic concepts in mind, the staff of the detective division set out to develop a unique new training opportunity, the Advanced Criminal Investigation (ACI) course.

Curriculum Development

All levels of supervisors, teams of detectives, prosecutors, and representatives from the county's crime laboratory formed a committee and developed a list of possible topics for inclusion in the ACI course curriculum. They determined that some of the subjects proved germane to all detectives, while others would interest only a portion of the investigators. Therefore, the committee decided to use a college curriculum approach to the ACI course - some subjects would be core requirements and others would be electives. The ACI course includes required subjects, such as advanced forensics, electronic and physical surveillance, courtroom testimony, high-tech crimes, major case investigations, legal updates, as well as interview and interrogation. Training in criminal intelligence, advanced crime prevention, and interviewing child victims of sexual assault comprise some of the elective subjects. Volunteers for the course would receive a certificate of completion once they finished the required subjects and at least one elective course. Moreover, participants could take as many electives as they wanted based on space availability and scheduling arrangements.

Schedule Challenges

After determining the curriculum, it became evident that training of this scope would require significant time commitments from the participants. Additionally, a wide variety of work assignments and an austere overtime budget made scheduling ACI courses a challenge. Therefore, the department had to find a way to accomplish the training without adversely impacting its day-to-day operations and without expending overtime funds. To answer this challenge, the committee developed an ongoing schedule of the various training modules, which would be offered on dates coordinated with the detectives' diverse work schedules. For example, the electronic and physical surveillance module would be presented six times during the period of October through May each year on dates selected to coincide with the different duty rosters of the detectives. …