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Criminal Profiling Essay, Research Paper
“We are all part monsters in our subconscious; that’s why we have laws and religion. These are the words of David Campiti in the book Forbidden Planet. Little did Campiti know, but this simple phrase would go on to be the holy grail to many specialists in a particular area of law known as forensic psychology, more commonly called criminal profiling. Criminal profiling, which is used to come up with the background, possible interests, and characterization of suspects believed to be responsible in serial murders, has changed throughout the years. As Wayne Choniki of the Arcane Research Group put it, “Profiling is acknowledging the skewed validity of the perpetrator’s perspective to be able to predict him without allowing yourself to become ‘lost’ to him and his world.
Still novel to the world of jurisprudence, criminal profiling has proven capable of opening a new door to the study of the criminal mind. The evolution of forensic psychology can be argued from many different points of view. While many people credit the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit with the development of criminal profiling, the actual act of getting inside a criminal’s mind can be traced back hundreds of years. In the past twenty years, it has not only become more reliable, but it has also gained much respect from the media, society, and professionals.
John E. Douglas, one of the prominent criminal profilers of the 20th century, was one of the first men to introduce the science of forensic psychology to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the late 1970s and early 1980s. John Douglas has been accredited with developing the modern day art of criminal profiling after his work with such criminals as Edmund Kemper, the Coed Killer, who was responsible for the murder of ten individuals, including his grandparents and his mother. Douglas also spoke with Charles Manson, the notorious mass murderer, and Richard Speck, who at the time was serving out a sentence for the murder of eight nurses, on several occasions. It wasn’t until after Douglas’ work with serial killers that the Behavioral Sciences Unit (BSU) of the FBI was opened. Today, John Douglas is a well-respected individual, who is still asked to help on many cases. Although retired, he has wrote two books on the topic of criminal profiling in hopes that people will continue to build on his work.
Although John Douglas and his colleagues were the first men to bring profiling to the United States’ justice system, criminal profiling has been around for centuries. One of the most overlooked topics dealing with profiling is the work of Edgar Allen Poe. Many of his short stories and poems, such as “The Telltale Heart,” deal with important issues dealing with criminal profiling. Probably one of Poe s most famous works of literature, The Telltale Heart is the story of a man who keeps the body of his victim under the floorboard of his house. The police search his house, but can find nothing. The murderer keeps hearing the pounding of the victim s heart and is slowly driven to insanity, finally turning himself into the police. The story is told from the killer s point of view, meaning Poe must have studied and understood the criminal mind.
Aside from literature, profiling used in law enforcement can be traced back to the late 1800s. In the case of Jack the Ripper, who was one of the most infamous serial killers of all time, a police surgeon by the name of Dr. Thomas Bond engaged in a reconstruction of the murder of Jack the Ripper’s final victim, Mary Kelly. Bond’s observations were used to determine time of death and cause of death. Bond noted that “the corner sheet to the right of the woman’s head was much cut and saturated with blood, indicating the face may have been covered with a sheet at the time of the attack” [Reference 6]. During the 1880s, Bond was frowned upon as being unprofessional in his assumption, and even today, many profilers face the media’s criticism in their work.
Despite Bond’s assistance in the case of Jack the Ripper, professionals still declined to use criminal profiling as a method of identifying a murderer. A second instance where criminal profiling was used professionally was during World War Two, when psychiatrist Walter Langer was asked by the Office of Strategic Services to provide a profile on Adolf Hitler. They asked Langer to provide them with what type of person Hitler was, what his ambitions were, what exactly made him tick, and what Hitler was liable to do if things turned against him. The CIA intended to use the original Hitler profile during the interrogation if Hitler was eventually captured. Langer told the officials at the Office of Strategic Services that Hitler’s eventual outcome would be suicide, which proved to be correct when Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a bunker when the Allies’ victory became certain.
The most well known profile was that of James Brussels, who was dealing with the case of “The Mad Bomber of New York.” Brussels reviewed the case and the photos and construed a profile of the type of individual he believed the NYPD was looking for. Brussel described the suspect as “a heavy man, middle aged, foreign born, Roman Catholic, single, lives with a brother or sister, and when you find him, chances are he’ll be wearing a double-breasted suit. Buttoned. He also predicted that the Mad Bomber of New York would be paranoid, hated his father, was obsessively loved by his mother, and lived in Connecticut. The New York Police Department was dumbfounded when they arrested the Mad Bomber. Brussels was right on the money, even down to the fact that the Bomber was wearing a double-breasted suit.
Howard Teten, who was at a professional high during the 1960s, began developing his own approach to criminal profiling while he was working with the California Police Department. It wasn’t until 1970 that he became a Special Agent with the FBI and initiated his profiling program. Teten paved the way for many well-known profilers, such as John Douglas, Robert Ressler, and Roy Hazelwood. In 1970, Teten taught the first course at the FBI National Academy, entitled Applied Criminology, a course that has been taught ever since.
Today, the media has blown up profiling in every aspect. Many movies, television shows, and books have based their main characters on criminal profilers. The most famous movie of this sort is Thomas Harris’ 1991 film, The Silence of the Lambs. The movie centers on a FBI Agent (Jodie Foster) who is working a case on a brilliant and cunning serial killer who skins his victims. So that she might better understand her suspect, the FBI Agent speaks to another psychopath (Anthony Hopkins), who was a respected psychiatrist at one time. In order to get the feel for the movie, writer Thomas Harris consulted John Douglas about how a profiler would be characterized. After careful study and many uneasy days, Harris wrote a script that would portray the modern day forensic psychologist in the most realistic way possible.
Aside from movies, television shows often use a criminal profiler as the lead character. One of the obvious television shows of the 1990s that deal with criminal profiling is “Profiler.” The show is about a forensic psychologist (Ally Walker), who is persuaded by her former teacher to lead an elite team of talented professionals to investigate high-profile crimes across the United States. The show follows the profiler through her work with some of the most gruesome criminals ever to be seen on TV.
Many works of fiction have also been published on the topic of criminal profiling. Such authors as Stephen White, the author of Manner of Death, rely heavily on professional profilers as their source of information. In his book, Stephen White tells the
chilling tale of two doctors and their investigation into the mind of a serial killer, who is responsible for the deaths of six men and women.
Whether it is from Hollywood or from the news, profiling is receiving more publicity than ever. No matter who was the first person to open the door to the world of profiling, it has long since become a relevant part of today’s law enforcement. Forensic psychology still has a long way to go before it will be accepted without a doubt in today’s federal court system, but throughout the past two decades, it has succeeded in putting thousands of heinous murderers behind bars. From the early pioneers in the field to today’s prominent leaders of the profiling community, there is no doubt that the science of profiling has managed to excel above and beyond its expectations.
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