Assessing for Detectives

Detective Shield copyMy Boss recently tasked me with running an assessment center for Property Crimes Detective.  At my agency, a property crimes dick investigates cases of burglary, grand theft, auto theft, arson, pawn/secondhand/metals recycling violations, and any other related incidents.  Though I had been involved in selecting SWAT Team members, K9 handlers, and Field Training officers over the last twenty years, I had never put together a detectives process.

I started by reviewing the previous assessment, which had been held a year ago and about nine months before I took over as the Property Crimes sergeant.  It had consisted of the prospective candidates being given an oral board interview and a problem-solving exercise that involved collating Felony Lane cases.  The latter culminated in a formal suspect interview.

It has been my belief that any assessment center should be fair to all candidates and measure real world skills necessary to perform the job for which the candidates are assessing.  Those two criteria sound simple, but I have witnessed many assessments stray far from these goals.

My first stab at the framework was to change elements of the oral interview.  It recorded standard suitability questions like, “Are you available for callouts 24 hours, seven days a week?” and “Why do you want to be in the Criminal Investigations Division?”  But I thought it lacking in necessary knowledge that pertained to being an actual detective…in Florida.  I came up with a battery questions taken straight out of Florida State Statutes 810, 812, 538, and 539 (Burglary, Theft, Secondhand/Metals, and Pawn Shops).

Important in applying the law is due process.  I added questions related to interview/interrogation and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.  Finally, I posed some questions from the victim’s point of view, “By FSS, how can a victim recover his stolen property from a Pawn Dealer?”

If you apply to be a property crimes detective and you cannot correctly answer, “What is prima facie evidence of intent in a burglary?” (810.07), then you need to reevaluate your methods for preparing for such a position.

Though I liked the fact that the candidates of the prior assessment were subjected to a mock suspect interview, the previous one had occurred in a standard interview room.  While there is nothing wrong with that, my experience as a Burglary, then Robbery/Homicide detective was that in property crimes, most suspect interviews happen in the field—the bad guy’s home, place of work, or on the street.

Staging a formal interview room and time spent rapport building are more the purview of a Crimes Against Persons detective.  With that in mind, I decided on a more “casual” interview setting.  Several days before the assessment, I would give each candidate a sample caseload of six cases.  Yeah, a very small sample.

On the day of the assessment, the candidate would be pulled out of the oral board and told a suspect in one of his/her cases was now at home.  Would he or she like to talk to the bad guy?  This is a common situation for a detective—something comes up in the middle of another.

Obviously, the answer should be yes.  After a few moments to review the pertinent case, the candidate would then meet with the suspect (role-playing detective) in a place designated to be the suspect’s place of residence.  The suspect/role-player had been instructed to answer any questions from the candidate.

The purpose of the interview was to see how much information the candidate could pull out of the suspect.  The question never asked is also never answered.  A successful candidate would leaved the room with a list of stolen property and pawn shops to check that would result in additional felony charges not related to the theft case for which the interview began.

In the end, the assessment was comprised of a review of the candidates’ résumés, the oral board, and the problem-solving exercise/interview.  Scoring would be done by the CID division commander and sergeants.  The candidates were judged on a knowledge, skills, and abilities matrix standardized by our city’s Human Resources department.

At the conclusion of the assessment center, one candidate outscored his peers by a wide margin and would receive his detective shield.  My Boss felt the assessment accurately measured the candidates’ current ability to do the job of Property Crimes detective.  My priority had been to run a fair assessment.


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