By now you must have seen a TV cop show or two, with handsome, clairvoyant “profilers” — for some reason, they are always handsome — who can suddenly see the crime from the victim’s point of view or gets a perfect vision of exactly how the crime was committed while at the crime scene.
Today’s film and television lineups are filled with shows about people with the ability to “look inside the mind of a killer” or “analyze the nation’s most dangerous serial killers before they strike again.”
Alas, that sort of magical clairvoyance only happens on TV.
And as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation wants you to know about its special agents, Blake Stilwell of Military.com reported.
It takes a lot more than magic visions to catch violent offenders. But inquiries happen so often, the bureau had to address it on the FBI’s Frequently Asked Questions page:
“The FBI does not have a job called ‘Profiler.’ Supervisory Special Agents assigned to the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) at Quantico, VA, perform the tasks commonly associated with ‘profiling.’ Despite some popular depictions, these FBI Special Agents do not get ‘vibes’ or experience ‘psychic flashes’ while walking around fresh crime scenes.”
The agency apparently gets so many questions about becoming a “profiler” that it had to add a disclaimer about it to its FAQ page. But those still interested in crime scene and criminal behavior analysis should keep reading:
“In reality, it is an exciting world of investigation and research — a world of inductive and deductive reasoning, crime-solving experience and knowledge of criminal behavior, facts and statistical probabilities.”
The actual job is called criminal behavioral analyst and, using a mixture of psychology and good old-fashioned police work, they help the FBI and local law enforcement generate leads based on the type of person who commits a particular crime, Military.com reported.
Retired FBI behavioral analyst Jim Clemente sat down with Wired magazine to talk about some of the skills and tasks the FBI site mentions that are commonly associated with “profiling.”
He was a supervisory special agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit, which is part of the NCAVC. There, they study violent and sexual crimes committed across the US.
Essentially, the unit is researching lessons learned from crimes committed elsewhere (along with the criminals who committed those kinds of crimes) in order to apply those lessons to unsolved cases, giving FBI special agents the benefit of that hindsight, Military.com reported.
“We help out where forensics fail,” Clemente says in the interview. “If we look at how the crime was committed, that leads us to why the crime was committed. And that leads us to who committed the crime … and it helps us hunt them down.”
Based on criminal interviews and existing research, the “profilers” study the psychology behind why certain serial killers, kidnappers and other violent offenders commit their crimes — and what goes through their minds as they commit them, Military.com reported.
“Criminal profiling is basically reverse-engineering a crime,” Clemente says. “The choice of the victim, the crime scene, the organization level and then pre- and post-offense behavior. Together, all those things tell us the kind of person who committed the crime.”
If you love true crime from the point of view of a “profiler” with all of the research and none of the magic visions, Clemente is co-host of “Real Crime Profile,” a true crime podcast.