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Profiled: A Public Investigator In Sacramento

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(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

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What does it take to become an investigator for the district attorney’s office? The short answer is this: It takes a lot of experience to join the club.

Typically, investigators for the district attorney’s office, no matter the county, come from other law enforcement agencies. They come from all over the state, and from a variety of different law enforcement backgrounds.

An investigator with a district attorney’s office is fairly typical. Starting as a deputy sheriff, he or she would have spent the first two years working at a county jail, a normal starting place with most deputy sheriffs. A lot of training takes place during the stint at the county lock up.

The next step would be getting out into the arena of patrol duties. The normal day and night shifts add to the overall experience of the deputy as the years roll by. The skills gained while on patrol duty are critical to a law enforcement career. The business of interacting with the public on a day-to-day basis, under many different scenarios and stress levels, starts to round out the deputy. The same patrol experience would apply to most sworn officers.

Along with doing what is called “routine” patrol, the deputy would have to undergo constant training and evaluation. Different specialties within the department would be available. Depending on the deputy’s interests, he or she may have become a SWAT team member and then a trainer of other SWAT team members. Swift water rescue, search and rescue, river or lake patrol, narcotics duty and other spots within the department would also be available.

Quite a few sheriff departments rotate patrol deputies through the detective ranks. It’s called the San Jose model. With enough experience on patrol, deputies go through detective training and spend a few years on what’s called, the D Squad. After the D Squad, going back to patrol is often the path taken. Others decide to branch out.

In the district attorney’s office, 10 years in law enforcement is about average for those applying for investigator positions. This path to the district attorney’s investigative unit is fairly typical. To get into this job, you have to know what you’re doing and have the years in service to prove it. There are no rookies on board.

The backgrounds of investigators for the district attorney’s office are all sworn peace officers. Their backgrounds cover all aspects of the field. Cyber crime, homicide, fraud, SWAT, hostage specialists and much more are all represented in their ranks. Every one of them have investigative training and backgrounds. Working as a member of a team is part of their collective backgrounds too.

Their days will normally cover a multitude of issues. Every issue the investigators address comes with the required mountain of paperwork, probably the least-liked aspect of the job.

The tasks for the day may involve gathering information that the district attorney needs relative to information the grand jury has provided. Perhaps a homicide investigation is in the late stages of putting together evidence and motive. Automobile fraud, or consumer fraud of any kind, elder abuse or workers’ compensation fraud are part of the usual routine as well. Banking issues are also in line for their expertise. Serving warrants is part of the drill, too. Now and again, someone needs to be taken into custody and booked into jail.

The days always vary. The district attorney depends on his investigators to provide him with the means to do his job. Because of the depth of experience the investigators have, the district attorney is right to depend on them.

Trench coats are not required.

Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. He retired from teaching after 36 years in 2010. He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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