Last Friday I had an opportunity to spend most of the day with a detective. I experienced a typical workday that included paperwork and investigative activity. From this episode I can share my perspective on some of the characteristics that make a good detective:
1. A good judge of human nature – Understanding what motivates people, how they operate, how to get information from them and how to follow up with them.
2. Excellent analytical skills – There is a lot of analysis both of computer-based information, interviews and in-person encounters.
3. Intelligence – Knowing how to approach problems, having the mental tools to tackle a difficult situation and the ability to uncover alternative possibilities.
4. Multitasking – A linear person could not survive in this environment. The detective I worked with had 29 cases on his backlog and these have to be worked concurrently with constant switching of tasks as priorities change. These ranged from a cold case murder in 1954 to two escaped fugitives that he had received information on that morning.
5. Sense of humor – You’d go nuts being around murderers, fugitives and the problems in society being dealt with unless you can laugh at yourself and the situation.
6. Good communication skills – The ability to ask the right question, listen to the answer, keep someone engaged and write clearly. He also spoke Spanish which helped in one interview.
7. Ability to turn off the job at home – We talked about this while driving to track down a work release fugitive. He was a dedicated family man and although his family knew what he did and he told them about what he was working on, he had learned to be present when on family time.