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Top ten real life detectives

Here are ten detectives who cracked impossible cases and made the world a safer place – detectives that criminology students might want to keep in mind.

Detective Tools On The Wood Table Background. Deerstalker Cap, Magnifier, Key, Cup, Notebook, Smoking Pipe

Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith

In prohibition-era US, Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith were federal police officers who achieved the greatest number of arrests and convictions between 1920–1925. They were known nationally for successfully shutting down speakeasies, using disguises in their work and going undercover in bars where their faces were on the wall. They made 4,392 arrests of which 95% gained convictions. By 1930, both men were working as insurance salesman after being ousted by jealous colleagues.

Kiran Bedi 

Not quite content being a champion tennis player, passionate politician and vehement social activist, Kiran Bedi turned her hand to policing. The first woman officer in the entirety of the Indian Police Force, Bedi found herself keeping the peace amid tense political protests. She set up civilian volunteer groups to patrol areas the police couldn’t quite cover and clamped down on bootlegging, sexual assault and institutional corruption in Delhi. All on her first few postings.

Jay J Armes

Amputee, actor and private investigator Jay J Armes has led an interesting life. After having both hands amputated at the age of 11, Armes spent a brief period in California acting before setting up a detective agency in El Paso. He served eight years as Chief Deputy Constable for the El Paso County Constables Department, and now charges approximately $1million per private investigation case.

Alice Clement

In 1913, Alice Clement was sworn into Chicago’s police force as its first female detective. Sporting pearls and packing a gun, Clement was a colourful character and an accomplished sleuth. One famed case involved the death of a young woman from typhoid. While male colleagues saw nothing suspicious, Clement demanded further investigation. In doing so, she uncovered a plot involving the girl’s long-lost aunt, a dulcimer, a sizeable fortune – and the deliberate poisoning of the dulcimer’s strings with typhoid bacteria by the aunt, who sought to gain the girl’s inheritance. A plot fit for an Agatha Christie novel!

Dave Toschi

Dave Toschi worked as an inspector for San Francisco police between 19521983. He was the chief investigator in the Zodiac killer case, which is still unsolved today. He was portrayed in the 2007 film Zodiac by Mark Ruffalo and was the inspiration for the title character in Bullitt, the 1968 movie starring Steve McQueen.

William E Fairbairn

William E Fairbairn worked as a private investigator and police officer in Shanghai, and his job put him face-to-face with some of the toughest figures in the commonwealth. To cope, he started developing his own martial arts techniques and teaching them to the rest of the Shanghai Police Force. The systems he developed would eventually evolve into what he called Defendu, a comprehensive self-defence science he'd one day teach to World War II Commandos. 

Francois Vidocq

One of the earliest criminologists and a one-time career criminal himself, Francois Vidocq's life inspired the works of Hugo and Balzac, and there's a biographical film about him too. Vidocq became the founder and first director of the first known private detective agency, and is considered to be the father of modern criminology and the French police department.

Allan Pinkerton

Born in Glasgow in 1819, Allan Pinkerton became a detective and spy, the first in Chicago after emigrating there as a young man. Pinkerton's agency solved a series of train robberies during the 1850s, bringing Pinkerton into contact with the Illinois Central Railroad, and the company's lawyer, a young chap by the name of Abraham Lincoln.

Mary Doyle

Mary Doyle is the Chief Superintendent of the Manchester Police Force. Joining when she was only 20, she’s had nothing short of an illustrious career. In 2011 she led an intense national investigation into the murder of Indian student Anuj Bidve and helped put his killer – who dubbed himself ‘Psycho’ – behind bars. She now helps manage the policing of a city with over 27 organised crime syndicates.

Kate Warne

Kate Warne was the first and only female detective Allan Pinkerton ever hired, and she was deeply influential. Hired because she could make the acquaintance of women more easily than men could, she soon found herself in the middle of the Pinkerton agency’s grandest exploits. Her career saw her uncovering stolen fortunes, hunting down the occasional murderer and rescuing President Lincoln from an assassination attempt. All in a day’s work for one of history’s least appreciated sleuths.

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