The establishment, development and growth of Criminal Investigations Department can be traced to the evolvement of the Kenya Police to which it remains one of the key formations. The first police officers were recruited in 1887 by the Imperial British East Africa Company, I.B.E.A. to provide security for stores in Mombasa. It was from these humble beginnings that the Kenya Police was born.
In 1906, the Kenya Police was legally constituted by the Police Ordnance. It is notable that up to 1907, the Kenya Police was organized along military lines and the training was military in nature. In order to improve police performance, the then Governor, Sir Hayes Saddler appointed a committee to look into the affairs of the Kenya Police Force. One of the committee's recommendations was the establishment of the Police Training School in Nairobi.

In 1909, Captain W.F.S. Edwards Colonial Head of Police, noted that the military element had been promoted at the expense of police training, as a result of which a training depot was established in Nairobi in 1911 together with a small fingerprint section.
The First World War interrupted development of the Force in 1914 where the Kenya Police were deployed in military service to fight alongside British soldiers. After the end of the war in 1918, the Police Force began to be reorganized.
This reorganisation entailed increasing personnel and creating better administrative and residential housing. In 1926, the Criminal Intelligence Unit was established with the sole responsibility of collecting, tabulating and recording the history and data on criminals, undesirable and suspicious persons. It later took on board the Intelligence, Crime, Passport and Immigration sections, in addition to the Fingerprint section which had been in existence since 1909.

In 1935 the C.I.D moved into new offices at the Law Courts where the current Supreme Courts are now situated from the location of the Serena Hotel. To enhance its capacity of crime investigation, the C.I.D. Training School was established in 1957.
In 1975 the Department moved to Kilimani area Headquarters along Valley Road. In the year 2003 the Department moved to its present premises at Mazingira Complex off Kiambu Road.

The promulgation of the constitution in 2010 set stage for the establishment of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. This was actualised in the enactment of the National Police Service Act of 2011. Part V, Section 28 and 35 of the Act outlines the Directorate’s mandate as provided for under Article 247 of the constitution.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations is established under the National Police Service Act, 2011. It is part of the larger National Police Service; the other organs being the Administration Police Service and Kenya Police Service.

The Directorate Headquarters
The Headquarter comprises of four main command branches under the Director, and the command spreads out from the Headquarters to Regions, counties, sub counties and DCI offices in relation to their service provision. These include: -

 Administration Directorate (with its constituents)
 Operations Directorate (with its constituents)
 Investigation Directorate (with its constituents)
 Forensic Directorate (with its constituents)

The other headquarter Directorates include: - Public Complaints, Inspections, Criminal Intelligence Unit, National Central Bureau, Logistics, Reforms, Legal & Crime Affairs, Crime Research Intelligence Bureau and Counter Terrorism Centre of Excellence.
The other formations include KAPU, Railway, DCI Academy and ATPU.

For the efficient and effective running of the Directorate towards achieving its core mandate, the Director, is also assisted by non-uniformed staff headed by an Administrative Secretary (Deputy Secretary) who also has officers under him both at the headquarters and at the County and Sub-County levels.

The Regional and County Levels
At the regional level, there are Regional Coordinators (RCs) who are directly responsible to the Director for effective administration of their respective Regions. Under the Regional coordinators are County Criminal Investigation Officers (CCIOs). Under CCIOs are the Sub-County Criminal Investigation Officers (SCCIOs) and Officers in-charge of Sub-offices in crime prone areas.

Currently there are 8 regional, 47 County Directorate Offices and 3 Formations (ATPU, KAPU, DCI Academy & Railways) and over 297 Sub-counties countrywide. The Regional coordinators (RCs) in the former Provincial headquarters (PCIOs) coordinate the counties within their regions and report to the Director on all matters affecting the Directorate.