Criminal Investigative Psychology
May 10, 2010
Criminal Profiling has been made a desired profession by the popular TV shows such as Law and Order and Criminal Minds, but in reality, criminal profiling has been a source for Law Enforcement since the early 1100s. The first documented use of criminal profiling was the demonization of Jews, better known as “Blood Libel”. These accusations are still used against Jews today, unfortunately. Criminal Profiling was also used in the Salem Witch Trials to decide who could be classified as Witches and the Spanish Inquisition in order to identify Muslims. The tactics and knowledge base that was used almost one thousand years ago, is still used today and will continue to be the basis of Criminal Profiling for many years to come. What exactly is Criminal Profiling? Well, in order to understand what criminal profiling is, someone must understand what a criminal profile is. “A criminal profile is a collection of inferences about the qualities of the person responsible for committing a crime or a series of crimes.” (Turvey, 2008, p. 43). The inferences Turvey is speaking of are based on evidence and common sense, or reasoning. Criminal Profiling is a Forensic Science, and like any Science, is concluded by theories and patterns, and more often than not, a crucial part to determining who a suspect could be when no eye witnesses are available. A criminal profiler will create a psychological profile of a suspect to aid Law Enforcement in the identification and location of the suspect by merely what they know about human behavior, motivation, and mental illness. (www.wcupa.edu.). A large number of criminals have been detained using criminal profiling. There are many TV shows that portray Criminal Profiling as a glamorous position within the Criminal Justice Field, this, unfortunately, couldn’t be farther from the truth. A criminal profiler will very seldom see the outside of their office walls, much less a crime scene, as portrayed on TV. Research and criminal comparisons are the main focus of a criminal profiler. The professionalism of Criminal Profiling has struggled a great deal in society of the centuries, however, due to scientific evidence and Case studies, criminal profiling has stood its ground as a reliable source when no witness is available, or when an eyewitness might be mistaken. “Over the past fifty years, scientific research has revealed that eyewitness testimony is often an incorrect account of what actually took place.” (Moenssens, 1995.) Thus, giving the courts more and more reason to use a criminal profiler to cross reference, or confirm what an eyewitness thinks they remember. There have been many studies and experiments with criminal profiling, and the positive outcomes caused the FBI to form the Behavioral Science Unit, in order to investigate serial rapes and murders. (Winerman, 2004, p. 66.) Criminal Profiling is practiced and used worldwide in modern society and has successfully detained very dangerous criminals, some of which would not have been solved otherwise. Jeffry Dahmer, for instance, was the first documented serial killer caught by using criminal profiling. Jeffry killed 17 people over a period of almost 20 years, and when he stood trial, had it not been for expert testimony by a criminal profiler for the FBI, would have spent his life in a mental institution instead of prison. There have been a large number of other serial rapists, serial killers and other types of criminals that have been detained using these methods. Even though criminal profiling has been practiced for centuries, it has only been since the 1960s that it has been a profession, and this profession has been made popular and resourceful by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). In 1972, the FBI Academy launched a Behavioral Science Unit—later called the Behavioral Analysis Unit—which began looking for patterns...
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Moenssens, A., Starrs, J., Henderson, C., & Inbau, F. (1995). Scientific Evidence in Civil and
Criminal Cases, 4th Ed., (New York: Foundation Press, 1995), pp.1146-1147
Turvey, B. E. (2008). Criminal Profiling : An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis.
Winerman, L. (2004). Criminal profiling: the reality behind the myth. Vol. 35, No. 7.
[Print version] p. 66.
Ault, R. L., Reese, J. T., (1980). Psychological Assessment of Crime Profiling: Inside the
Criminal Mind. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (March 1980)
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