Learning more about the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation

Iowa Department of Public Safety logo

The Marion County Tribune recently reached out to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to learn more about the agency, the number of special agents involved and more. Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt provided the answers to our questions. The exchange is placed in its entirety below.

How many special investigators does DCI have?

In the Division of Criminal Investigation’s Special Enforcement Operations Bureau (SEOB, formerly Gaming Bureau) there are currently 57 Special Agent 2 positions and one Special Agent 1 position. The DCI’s Field Operations, which is primarily responsible for assisting local law enforcement agencies, consists of 45 Special Agent 2 positions for a total of 103 special agents in the division.

How many of those are dedicated to one specific aspect of the law/society?

There are a total of 76 special agent positions assigned to one specific aspect.
58 – Special Enforcement Operations Bureau (SEOB)
8 – Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC)
4 – Sex Offender Register (SOR)
2 – Social Security Administration
2 – Weapons, Crimes and Violations

Does gaming have more dedicated investigators than other areas, and if so, why is that? Is there a greater potential for crime in that industry?

Pursuant to chapter 80.25A, the DCI SEOB serves as the primary criminal investigative and enforcement agency for enforcing Iowa Code chapters 99D, 99E and 99F. Staffing levels for the DCI SEOB are set at a level necessary to meet these responsibilities and determined in a manner consistent with the requirements of chapters 99D.14(2)(a)(1) and 99F.10(4)(a)(2) which mandate there be no more than three agents per licensed casino.

The 58 special agents assigned to SEOB are responsible for conducting criminal investigations and enforcement activities, background investigations, and providing regulatory support at state licensed casinos and throughout the state concerning casino gaming, pari-mutuel wagering, sports wagering and fantasy sports contests. Special agents assigned to the DCI SEOB have offices in each of the 19 casinos licensed by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The DCI SEOB is funded entirely by regulatory fees assessed to the casino industry

There is not necessarily more crime in the gaming industry. Special agents in the DCI SEOB conduct criminal investigations with a nexus to gambling, such as cheating, theft, fraud and money laundering in addition to assisting the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission by performing various levels of background investigations. Background investigations are conducted on all companies licensed by the IRGC, companies with an ownership interest in Iowa casinos or providing gaming equipment or supplies to Iowa casinos, sports wagering and fantasy sports providers as well as each of the approximately 8,800 employees at the 20 casinos and racetracks in Iowa.

How does the DCI determine these numbers?

Please see answer above.

What factors are considered when a decision is made to put a state investigator on a specific case?

Pursuant to chapter 80.9A, the DCI does not have original jurisdiction. It assists and provides expertise to local law enforcement in criminal investigations. Requests are typically made by a police department, sheriff’s office or county attorney. When considering a request from local law enforcement, factors taken into consideration include the seriousness and type of a particular crime and agent availability. .

If there is a shortage of investigators, what elements are used to narrow down where manpower would be best utilized?

Violent crimes against people take precedence over property crimes. If the DCI is experiencing a shortage of special agent resources, considerations include the level of crime, and the nature and seriousness of the crime. If we are tight on resources, the area Special Agent in Charge can also evaluate the seriousness of the crime and if the more feasible approach would be to provide guidance to a local agency rather than participating directly in an investigation.

At a given time, how many open cases do the special investigators have on their plate?
Special agent case load varies and can range from 6-8 cases up to 18-20 cases per agent. Case load is dependent on factors such as assignment, special agent location, types of cases a special agent has been assigned over the past couple of years, cases that may not be close to resolution or reach a phase of criminal charges. These factors can be impacted by cases that are open for months and years due to legal processes and moving trial dates. The one practice DCI is able to do more easily than some local law enforcement agencies is we can provide special agents more focus and time to pursue cases.

Is there any kind of limit on how many hours of manpower are put into a case before it is considered unable to be solved? At what point would a case be considered cold?

There is no limit on the number of hours spent on a case, and there is no threshold when the DCI considers a case unable to be solved. We consider a case to be “cold” when investigative information and leads have significantly slowed or have stopped completely. Previous solved cold cases have shown that leads can be generated again after long periods of time.

How many unsolved cases are there in Iowa?

As mentioned above, the DCI is a requested agency, so we do not work all criminal cases in Iowa, nor does the DCI track all cases. Likewise, local agencies are not required to report cold cases to us. We estimate that the DCI has approximately 160 cold cases on record since 1960.

What qualifications would one have to be hired for a special investigator position?
Special agent qualifications generally include knowledge of the procedures and techniques involved in investigating criminal activity, such as: collecting, preserving, and transporting physical evidence; identifying and contacting potential witnesses and possible suspects; identifying and analyzing crime patterns and typical methods of operation; utilizing specialized techniques that have been developed for investigating a wide variety of different crimes; implementing undercover (covert) investigative techniques and procedures; and interpreting and utilizing crime laboratory data findings.

Education, experience and special requirements include graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s Degree in political science, business, social science, accounting, or related field; OR three (3) years of law enforcement experience as a sworn federal, state, or local police officer and sixty (60) semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours), or hold an Associate in Arts degree from an accredited college or university, OR five (5) years of law enforcement experience as a sworn federal, state, or local peace officer. Applicants must attend and graduate from the DPS Basic Training Academy graduation and be at least 22 years old at the time of their graduation.

Anything else you care to share about this unit?

The Division of Criminal Investigation was originally formed as the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). On April 9, 1921, the Iowa Legislature authorized the Attorney General to organize the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Legislature initially allocated a $37,500 budget for the BCI during the first year. The BCI, under the Department of Justice and operating through Attorney General Ben J. Gibson’s office, consolidated all state law officers who were appointed by the Governor or the Attorney General into one centralized law enforcement agency. Over the years, the BCI evolved into the Division of Criminal Investigation, which will observe its 100th anniversary in 2021.