8 Key Traits of Highly Effective Detectives


Photo courtesy of detectivescene.com.

For many police officers, acquiring the title of detective is quite an accomplishment. And the reason is simple. As a detective – you have the opportunity to take charge, break the code, and piece together the puzzle of the crime.

But, not all detectives are created equal. Some are more gifted at gathering all of the relevant evidence, and solving the mystery. And those detectives who excel at their vocation, all possess a certain set of common characteristics.

Here’s eight of those traits –

Sense of humor

That’s right. A sense of humor. No one is expecting a detective to be the next Dave Chappelle. But, in order to overcome the intensity of the job, a detective needs to make light of their work. Every once in a while.

As a detective, your job is to investigate the dark and dastardly deeds of society’s sociopaths and psychopaths. So, it makes sense that your psyche can take a beating. And that’s where the humor helps. When you’ve seen the worst of humankind, sometimes all you need is a good laugh with a few pals. It won’t erase what you’ve experienced, but it will certainly help alleviate the stress.


Technology is moving at a rapid pace. This gives criminals the opportunity to use a plethora of tools to carry out their illicit goals. And because of that. Detectives need to be one step ahead of their counterparts.

A skilled detective has always needed to think outside the box, and be clever. But, nowadays, detectives must possess a great deal of knowledge concerning hi-tech gadgets, social media and the dark corners of the internet.

For detectives to truly succeed in today’s world, they must exercise ingenuity in accessing the ever growing world of digital technologies.  


When you’re a detective, you must act with integrity, loyalty and honesty. Otherwise known as honor.

When you wield as much authority and power as a detective does. You need honor to guide you through your good and bad days. Because without honor, a detective can ruin lives. Destroy families. And wreak havoc on society.

But, a skilled and effective detective understands and appreciates the great responsibility of  the detective’s shield.  And they act with honor towards a just outcome.


Detectives are under a great deal of stress. Whether it’s their commanding officers. The prosecutor. Or the victim, and their family. The fact remains. The investigator has to solve the case. And quickly.

As a result, skilled detectives must be able to work under tight deadlines and extreme stress. And that’s where proper training comes into play. If an investigator has been trained to deal with, and adapt to fluid situations, then the chances of success increases drastically.

A truly effective detective must be cool, calm and collected.


Photo courtesy of pinterest.com.


Let’s not forget courage. That’s a trait which separates the gifted detective from the pack. Not everyone has the guts to take on the biggest cases, and work them until the end. Even when the odds are unfavorable, and the foes are great.

Courage does not mean that the detective is fearless. It simply means that they are able to find the inner strength to do what needs to be done. Having that extra bit of courage enables the detective to dig deep into the case, and not stop until the case has been resolved. Even if the detective is put into situations of great peril.


Unfortunately, real crime scenes are nothing like those found in movies. In real life, detectives have to sift through mountains of irrelevant things, in order to find the pertinent evidence.

True attention to detail is a necessary attribute for an effective detective. They are required to see the big picture, and then be able to zoom in on the little pieces that lead to the resolution of the case. Detectives must have the uncanny ability to view nine things at once, and then determine which of those nine things has any relevance – if any.

If a detective has a methodical approach, it will often lead to clean arrests and successful prosecutions.


When a detective is called to a crime scene, they are entering a world of tragedy and chaos. There will be those who lost loved ones, victims who have been attacked, and people who have had their lives turned upside down.  In those situations, compassion is required.

It is easy to lose sight of sympathy for the victim when engrossed in the search for the perp. But, a great detective will always maintain a level of empathy for those who suffered at the hands of a criminal. The detective must be a symbol of sympathy and strength.


When it’s all said and done, it is usually the detective’s tenacity that solves cases. Working long, odd hours. Dealing with the underbelly of society. And having a tremendous workload. These are just some of the obstacles put in front of a detective.

But, a truly gifted detective will overcome the burdens. And through sheer grit and determination, they will solve the crime. And put the perp behind bars. 

These are all noble characteristics. And they all contribute to the makeup of a highly effective police detective. What do you think – any other traits that belong on this list?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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5 Responses to 8 Key Traits of Highly Effective Detectives

  1. Sparkyjen says:

    I would include patience. Patience with each case is key in my opinion. My beloved Mother would always say: “Haste Makes Waste!” Solving cases may take time, and here I will also add “timing.” Although one case might look similar to another — giving the detective(s) the impression that the case is going to be a cinch to solve right off the bat , but oops there may be one “unique” detail that could be the difference that makes the difference in bringing the case forward to a trial and successful conviction. Patience!

    Liked by 1 person

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