For those of you who know next to none about criminal profiling, this is the place to
be. I admit, I knew nothing about it when I started, and look at me now. Writing webpages
I've arranged this section of the page as a sort of FAQ with three sections. The first
is about the real thing: criminal profiling as it is in the real world. The second is
about profiling in the X-Files (though most of that is covered in the Episodes section of
the page). The third section is a glossary of criminal profiling terms.
Part One: Crinimal Profiling in Real Life
- What is Criminal Profiling?
Dumb question. It's that thing Mulder did before he started on the X-Files. Well,
there's a little more to it than that...
Criminal profiling, or as it is sometimes called, offender profiling, or behavioral
profiling, is an investigative technique used to identify the offender in a crime. Here's
a good definition given by Howard Teten:
"Offender profiling is a method of
identifying the perpetrator of a crime based on an analysis of the nature of the offense
and the manner in which it was committed. Various aspects of the criminal's personality
makeup are determined from his or her choice of actions before, during, and after the
crime. This information is combined with other pertinent details and physical evidence,
and then compared with the characteristics of known personality types and mental
abnormalities to develop a practical working description of the offender."
The final product of criminal profiling is a profile, which is used by law
enforcement to catch the perpetrator.
- What qualifications do criminal profilers need?
A criminal profiler will usually have an undergraduate degree in behavioral science
(pyschology, sociology, etc), a graduate degree in forensic science, psychology,
sociology, or med-school psychiatry. Also, a profiler will have gone through an internship
period with law inforcement. FBI profilers are required to have had two years of work in
the field before their application to the FBI academy. The BSU (Behavioral Science Unit)
working out of Quantico requires a PhD.
- What tools do profilers use?
Other than their brains? Not much.
A notebook and the casefile are a good start. A profiler will recieve a case (usually a
serial case. One-time murders are seldom profiled.) from the local PD (or the FBI) and
will perhaps be briefed on it by the detective in charge. He will examine the evidence if
it's available at the moment and listen to the taped interviews with victims. However, the
profiler isn't likely to go around visiting the scene of the crime. Remember - the BSU
works from a bomb shelter 60 feet underground! Besides, in most cases, by the time a
profiler gets a case, the crime scenes have been cleaned up and all that is left is the
gathered evidence, the recorded eyewitness accounts, and the crimescene photos.
As for other physical tools, none are required. Testing of the evidence is done by the
forensics department, usually of the local PD, and everything is served to the profiler on
a platter. All he has to do is piece the puzzle together. If there's anything else he
requiers, any missing pieces, he can call the police department for them.
Other than that... a few good reference books can be of help, especially when dealing with
criminals that taunt the police and leave clues. And for those poor overworked profilers,
a cup of coffee's really nice, too!
- Where do they start?
With the evidence, of course, my dear Watson. Using the evidence left behind, the crime
scene, and the offender's choice of victim, the profilers can begin to establish an MO
(Modus Operandi) and the signature. MO is how the killer operates: how he finds his
victims, how he kills, and after how long. A signature is what seperates him from other
killers with similar MOs. Also, a closer look at the victims is often helpful since there
is likely to be a pattern there, as well While victimology (the study of the victims of a
certain offender) is not likely to get the profiler far, it is likely to move him forward
in establishing the phsychological profile. For example, a killer who had a very strong
woman as a mother and is killing as a release for his hate for her will likely choose
strong women who remind him of his mother.
- What kind of crime is criminal profiling most often used for?
Serial murder. It's more common and tends to require more than just the physical evidence
to crack. While profiling is also used for crimes like rape, child molestation, and arson,
the first two are often part of the murder in a serial murder case.
- Does Criminal Profiling Help?
Obviously it helps some, or they wouldn't do it, would they? But, really, profiling only
provides some sort of guideline by which to look for a suspect. If the police already has
a suspect, they can use the profile to try to anticipate the next move or see if they
really fit. However, the method is not foolproof. More than once, a suspect who later
turned out to be the offender was let go because he didn't match the profile.
- Where Can I Learn More?
Well, for a good overview and some research links, start with the Swiss Criminal Profiling Scientific Research Site.
Also, you may want to look at the Criminal Profiling as a Career
FAQ. There's also the Academy of Behavioral
Profiling. For good serial murder resources there's serialkillers.net and serialhomicide.com. If you're looking for
something a lot more thurough and detailed that's straight to the point, there's a
wonderful set of Online
Lecture Notes for Criminal Profiling offered by North Carolina Wesleyan College. These
are great and cover just about evreything you'll want to know and more about the craft.
Those are just online links. Is there anything in hardcopy?
Well... if you had to ask....we have, not at all by order of importance, or
any other order, for that matter:
- The Cases That Haunt Us by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker
- Mind Hunter : Inside the Fbi's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark
- Journey into Darkness by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker
- Obsession : The Fbi's Legendary Profiler Probes the Psyches of Killers, Rapists and
Stalkers and Their Victims and Tells How to Fight Back by John Douglas
- Serial Killers by Joel Norris
- The Evil That Men Do by Stephen G. Michaud
- Signature Killers by Robert D. Keppel
- The Anatomy of Motive by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker
- Profiles in Murder by Russell Vorpagel and Joseph Harrington
- Profiling Violent Crimes : An Investigative Tool by Ronald M. Holmes and Stephen T.
- Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis by Brent E. Turvey
- Offender Profiling : Theory, Research and Practice by Janet L. Jackson and Debra A.
- Hunting Serial Predators: A Multivariate Classification Approach to Profiling Violent
Behavior by Grover Maurice Godwin
- Crime Classification Manual by John E. Douglas, Ann W. Burgess, Allen G. Burgess, and
- Profiling in Policy and Practice (Offender Profiling Series) by David V. Canter and
Laurence Alison (Editors)
And, of course, there's many, many more. Check the further reading at the bottom of
each lecture in the Online
Lecture Notes and appendixes at the end of the above listed books. Getting your hands
on a collage criminology textbook, for example, is a very good idea.
Part Two: The X-Files and Criminal Profiling
- Does Mulder really qualify to be a real profiler?
No. Profilers in the BSU, where Mulder supposedly worked from '86 to '88/89, are required
to have a PhD in a social science or psychology. Mulder doesn't. It's that simple. (For
fanfic writers who are desperately looking to get around that... sorry. No help here.)
- In what episodes does Mulder profile someone?
In almost every episode that deals with serial murder. Most are in the first three
seasons. See the Episodes section of this site for more on
- Is he any good at it?
The obvious answer would be, "Of course! He catches the bad guys, doesn't he?"
But that wouldn't be entirely correct. Most of Mulder and Scully's arrests in these types
of cases are based more on luck than on skill. Even when it does come down to skill, the
deciding factor is usually Mulder's gut instinct and not a carefully prepared profile.
While, after years as a profiler, he probably learned to calculate quickly and trust his
gut, (something he does better than others naturally, which had given him his nickname,
"Spooky") he takes the risk of missing a small but meaningful detail and getting
it all wrong. Then again, with the X-Files, there's usually no time to sit down and write
out a carefully-prepared profile...
- Has Mulder ever been drastically wrong?
Depending on how you look at it. On a lot of cases, his original profile and theory went
through several stages before settling on a final one which is usually 100% correct. His
profiles, too, may have been wrong before. It all depends on how you look at it.
In Squeeze, for exaple, based on his profile (or at least his understanding of the
suspect, which, for Mulder, is just as good) Mulder tells Scully that the killer won't be
going back to the building, since he's already achieved the thrill derived from the
seemingly impossible entery. However, moments later, they find Tooms crawling through the
air conditioning vents. While it may appear like a killer going back to the scene of the
crime, note that Tooms was actually just doing his job. He was crawling through the vents
to get at a dead animal. So was Mulder wrong, or did Tooms jump at this assignment as an
excuse to go back to the scene of his crime and relive the emotional high of the kill?
Also, the profile that Mulder and Scully wrote in Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose and
offered to the team of agents on the case may or may not have been used. We never actually
saw it. It's most likely that it was used but didn't provide any solid leads. Or that the
Stupendous Yappy just provided more.
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