While you might be surprised to learn that some forms of criminal (or offender) profiling have been around for a very long time – from profiles of witches in the Middle Ages to “Jack the Ripper” in the late 19th century – criminal profiling really developed into a systematic attempt to identify key features of individual criminal behaviour with the establishment of the FBI’s Behavioral (sic) Science Unit in 1972.
Under the initial guidance of John Douglas (whose fictionalised representation in the character of Holden Ford appears in Netflix’s Mindhunter series) the BSU pioneered an approach to understanding the means and motivations of American serial killers through the deceptively-simple method of interviewing them.
The information gained from a variety of America’s most-notorious and prolific killers was used to develop a range of criminal categorisations – the most well-known probably being the idea of organised and disorganised crime scenes and offenders – that could be applied to understand and apprehend “unknown suspects” (or “unsubs” as the phenomenally-successful Criminal Minds TV series, based loosely on the BSU, would have it).
While a range of TV shows – such as Mindhunter and Criminal Minds in America, Cracker and Wire in the Blood in the UK – have developed fictionalised accounts of Criminal Profiling (and Profilers…) how realistic are these representations?
Is Criminal Profiling, as many of the more-sensational TV shows suggest, an almost “magical formula” for identifying and capturing the most serious criminal offenders?
Or do profilers simply provide a “fresh pair of eyes” on evidence and possible offenders that can be used to supplement – and in some cases enhance – conventional police procedures?
This short film, featuring contributions from three of the UK’s leading academics in the field of psychological profiling – Professor Craig Jackson, Professor David Wilson and Dr Louise Almond – examines these questions by introducing, illustrating and explaining a number of key ideas in criminal profiling:
Criminal Profiling: The Movie is available now to download – either to buy (so that you can keep it and cherish it forever – unless that sounds a little too weird, in which case, just to keep) or on 7-day rental (that should be enough to cover a whole heap of classes).