While criminal profilers have been around for many years, they’ve only recently gained public notoriety with the increased trend of true crime tv shows and more public knowledge into the inner workings of law enforcement, namely the FBI. Names like Robert Ressler and John Douglas (both now retired from the FBI) are well-known within not only the law enforcement circle, but the general public as a whole, as pioneers in the development of criminal profiling as a mainstream tool in solving crimes. Candice DeLong (also now retired) was not only one of the first female FBI criminal profilers, but she was also the lead profiler in the Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) case, among other well-known cases.
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Because of the monumental importance, sensitivity and specificity of the profession, becoming a criminal profiler requires the minimum of a Master’s degree, but the most successful profilers have a Ph.D in psychology with a concentration in human and/or criminal behavior. Beyond that, additional training, ideally with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, is required to hone and perfect profiling skills. Because of criminal profilers, famous criminals such as Gary Ridgway, famously known as “The Green River Killer”, and David Berkowitz, known as “The Son of Sam” were ultimately identified, tried, and convicted for their crimes. A criminal profile has also been created for Jack the Ripper, the person who claimed to be responsible for the murders and gross mutiliations of multiple London, England, prostitutes in the late 1800’s. While this murder has never actually been solved, and may never be, the credit for clearest picture to date of who the killer actually was certainly goes to the skills of criminal profilers.
Many factors go into creating a criminal profile. Profilers look at the date, time, location, method in which the crime was committed (weapons used, etc), the brutality of the crime, the gender of the victim(s), as well as other details to help local law enforcement officials narrow down a type of suspect. For instance, based on the information above, a criminal profiler can determine the suspect or suspects’ gender, age, race, nationality, sexual preference, and many other important details, thereby helping to “narrow down” a list of suspects. Profilers also provide expert testimony in court, and may assist with either the prosecution, the defense, or sometimes both, and can provide key insights into a criminal’s mind that other experts aren’t trained to do.
The road to becoming a criminal profiler, while not an easy one, can lead to an extremely rewarding, lucrative, and constantly changing work environment because they can be vital to trying and convicting very dangerous criminals, are paid well for what they do, and never knew exactly what kind of case awaits them each day on the job.