View Full Version : Police department (Ranking) and other stuff

07-18-2006, 01:19 AM
I hate to post another police department question, but the previous one really hit home when I skimmed through it. The character in my novel is a detective. I want her to be THE lead detective. Here's my problem, I have no idea what a lead detective does. Also, when it comes to ranking, is the lead detective in charge of all the other detectives, or just in charge based on the case. In other words, can anyone be a lead detective at any given time? Also, I've watched a few tv shows in my day and I've heard some of the officers refer to their supervisors as "chief", "lieutenant chief", and "sarge", but I have no clue what it all means in the grand scheme. For example, are detectives ranked higher than regular beat cops? Also, who would outrank the supervising detective (if there's a such thing). I was thinking of going to a courthouse up the road but I was afraid they'd drag me down to interrogation for questioning...LOL Any help would be appreciated.

07-18-2006, 01:22 AM
I asked this myself for some research a while back.

You essentially have a matrix of ranking. Patrol (the guys on the street) are one column. Detectives are another column. They each have their own patrolman, sergeant, lieutenant, etc., forming the rows from the bottom on up.

Don't be afraid to ask the local police for help. If they're not busy, they love to talk about this stuff.

Cathy C
07-18-2006, 01:50 AM
You might also wander over to Realpolice.net (http://forums.realpolice.net/forumdisplay.php?f=112), where their Ask-A-Cop forum has real live officers in all levels of rank who will answer your questions to the best of your ability. Just make sure you give them a little data: What state the book is being set, what city (if it's a real one), what you're HOPING your character can do, etc., so they can fit in the reality of it. I had to make some changes to my WIP based on their comments, but it's well worth it!

07-18-2006, 05:31 AM
Most police departments, except very small ones, have a public relations officer whom you could talk to. You might be surprised at how willing to help they can be. Your questions don't have black and white answers, because police department structures can vary widely from state to state or even city to city.

I actually know a lot about this subject. If you want to PM me I'll be glad to help as much as I can.

07-22-2006, 12:43 PM
While assumed to be so, detectives don't always outrank patrol officers. Only detectives of some form of rank such as a detective-sergeant.

Sergeants, corporals and other 'rank' officers also have authority over other officers, despite what division they are assigned (i.e. detective, patrol, detention).

As for a command structure you have various elements of the paramilitary style. I'm most familiar with:

lead officer

our local police department has:

lead officer
chief of police.

A lead officer is the officer assigned to be 'in charge' when no ranking officer is present though they have no real rank of their own. somebody still has to make decisions and get yelled at by unhappy citizens.

As for the terms you cited:

"sarge" = sergeant
"chief" = chief of police (sometimes sheriff, but ours never does)
"lou" = lieutenant

as for 'lead detective' that is usually assigned on a case by case basis. If there is a team of detectives that are on an investigation, the lead detective would be the detective in charge of the investigation. They would still answer to a detective sergeant (or if large enough, then to a detective lieutenant). However, in all cases, the head guy (chief or sheriff or whatever) and his immediate subordinates (captain/undesheriff, etc) would be in charge over detectives, as well as any other officer with a rank higher than theirs.