If you’ve been watching any crime shows, you’ve likely been exposed to the fictionalized version of an NYPD detective. Those Hollywood portrayals may have piqued your interest in pursuing a career with the NYPD. But while there are many good reasons to become an NYPD detective, keep in mind it is a demanding career and a difficult title to achieve.
No Promotion Exam
Some police departments require detective candidates to pass a promotion exam, fitness tests and interviews after several years of service. But in the NYPD the position is based on merit. A police officer can be promoted to detective at any point in her career -- at the discretion of the police commissioner. In some cases the promotion may be given for an act of bravery, such as being shot in the line of duty or pursuing a high-profile suspect while off-duty. The promotion may also be based on the number of arrests you make and cases you solve. However, the most common route to becoming a detective is to serve as a patrol officer for a probationary period of approximately two years before putting in for a transfer to a recognized investigative unit. After serving in the investigative unit for 18 months, you can put in the request to be promoted to detective.
Get Off Patrol
For many, getting off patrol is one of the main motivations to earn the promotion to become an NYPD detective. Patrol comes with long hours and shift work, whereas detectives are usually scheduled as full-time employees. However, detectives should still expect to work overtime and to be called in during major investigations.
NYPD detectives move through the ranks from third to first grade. A detective third grade’s salary is similar to that of a patrol officer's while a first grade detective’s is similar to the pay given to a lieutenant. As of April 2011, the maximum base salary of a third grade detective was $84,508. For second grade detectives it was $94,962 and for first grade, $109,002. However, detectives also receive longevity pay, holiday pay and a uniform allowance. So when this is taken into consideration, a third grade detective receives a total compensation of $97,735. Detectives also are paid overtime and night shift differentials, which also increase annual salary. The annual mean wage of detectives and criminal investigators based in New York State was $88,010 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The NYPD offers its officers a variety of benefits including paid vacation days and sick leave, a medical program that includes prescription, dental and eye care coverage, an annuity fund and deferred compensation plan or 401(k) and individual retirement account. An officer, including a detective, has the option of retiring after 22 years with one-half salary and a $12,000 variable supplement fund. If she isn’t retiring after 22 years, she is able to bank the supplement.
As of April 2011 there were 5,000 detectives in the NYPD, according to the police department. The NYPD has more than 300 units offering detectives the opportunity to work in a variety of areas. Generally, detectives work in specialized units that focus on areas such as narcotics, vice, burglary, fraud, corruption or homicide. But an array of opportunities exists in the force, giving opportunity for career development and career diversity. It also provides a candidate with the ability to direct her career into a law enforcement area she is particularly interested in, for example sex crimes, juvenile justice or working at the district attorney’s office.
- NYPD Recruit: Overview
- NYPD Recruit: 300 Units
- NYPD Recruit: Promotional Opportunities
- NYPD Recruit: Benefits and Salary Overview
- NYC.gov - NYPD: Application Process
- NYC.gov: Mayor Bloomberg Announces Tentative Agreement With Detectives' Endowment Association
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 - Detectives and Criminal Investigators
- Los Angeles Police Department: LAPD Career Ladder
- Vice: A Cop's Life - Rookie to Retiree in 20 Years
- CBS New York: NYPD Officer Stabbed In The Brain Promoted To Detective
- The Detectives' Endowment Association, Inc.: Home
- Police Link: 5 Tips for Becoming a Detective
- The Graveyard Shift: So You Want to Be a Detective?
- The Brooklyn Rail: Out of the Blue - My Experience in the NYPD
- Policewomen's Endowment Association: The History of Women in the NYPD
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Police and Detectives
Based in Toronto, J.A. Zander has worked as a full-time journalist since 2004. Zander's work has appeared in Canadian and American magazines, newspapers and websites.