Essay on Profilers: Police and Fbi Special Agent

Submitted By Brittany58
Words: 941
Pages: 4

Misconceptions About Criminal Profiling One of the most predominant genres in television today is the crime drama. Unfortunately, these crime dramas are written by screenwriters and not anyone actually in law enforcement. Hollywood’s exaggeration and dramatization of law enforcement and the criminal justice system has led to a phenomenon called the CSI effect. The CSI effect is when viewers mistake what happens on crime dramas, like CSI, for how solving crimes actually works (“Profiling”). For example, while a case can be solved on CSI in the space of a day, it takes much longer in real life, with cases taking weeks, years, or even decades to solve. This discrepancy is due in no little part to the idea that forensic tests take a short amount of time when they can occupy hours or even overnight. The CSI effect has skewed not only the public’s view on forensic science but also criminal justice careers themselves. We see FBI profilers on television solving crimes through psychology when the truth of the matter is “profiler” isn’t even a real job at the FBI. “Profilers” are actually supervisory special agents with the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes (NCAVC) in Quantico, Virginia. A basic requirement to be considered for the program is that an individual have served as an FBI special agent for three years. However, due to the high amount competition for placement in the program, individuals selected usually have eight to ten years of experience with the Bureau (“Frequently Asked Questions”). Newly assigned agents typically undergo a “structured training program of more than 500 hours” (“Profiling”). This is all so they can learn how to “profile” offenders.
This act of “profiling” has as many misrepresentations as profilers themselves. Main objectives of offender profiles tend to be one or more of the following:
1) The development of a description of an unknown offender, based on an interpretation of crime scene elements of the unsolved offence. This is perhaps the most common purpose of profiling.
2) Establishing the probability of a future offence from the same offender based on the crime scene analysis.
3) The linking of a series of unsolved crimes that appears to share distinct features, often through linking ‘signature aspects.’ These are essentially personalized offender-specific behaviors that reflect individual interpersonal behaviors and/or fantasies.
4) The development of an interrogation strategy to assist police in “asking the right questions”. Again, this is based on a psychological portrait inferred from an analysis of the crime scene and/or statistical data from offenders thought similar to the unknown subject (Horgan 4). Profilers are usually brought onto a case after all other leads are exhausted by local police. Profiles themselves rarely lead the police to immediate identification of an offender although this remains one of the core myths of profiling (Horgan 13). The very nature of a profile is not to find an offender but rather narrow the pool of suspects, allowing police officers to focus their efforts on individuals most likely to have committed the crime.
Even so, criminal profiling is a polarizing concept. While some people argue the concept’s validity, others are quick to point out its failings. One thing to keep in mind is the immense task faced by the very prospect of profiling. The profiler is essentially “constructing a set of subjective judgments and offering hypotheses about a person whom the profiler has never met” (Horgan 11). This leads to some profiles being so vague as to be practically useless to the police, and seem even to suffer the P.T. Barnum effect. The P.T. Barnum effect is when personality descriptions are vague and universal enough that nearly everyone