Criminal Profiling: Art, Science or Both?
Posted by Carey Baldwin
When I set out to write my upcoming release, JUDGMENT, I knew I had a lot of research to do, since the male lead is an FBI profiler, and it’s very important to me for my stories to be as authentic as possible. So I read more than a dozen books on profiling and the FBI, attended the writers’ police academy, made myself a pest on the crime-scene writers’ loop, and interviewed my local law enforcement resources. Then, armed with my pre-research, I went straight to the source- the FBI- for fact checking. You may or may not know that the FBI has a bureau of public affairs that provides specific avenues for writers and other artists to help them get their facts straight. Pretty cool, I think.
The real profilers, or more accurately, criminal investigative analysts, are a dedicated and courageous group, comprised of some of the brightest minds in the FBI. Most criminal investigative analysts start out as field agents before moving on to profiling, so they have experience and street smarts that round out their analytic skills.
But contrary to popular belief, profiling didn’t start with the FBI. Many consider New York psychiatrist, Dr. James Brussel, to have created the first criminal profile. Dr. Brussel astounded the police and public by providing a detailed psychological and forensic portrait of a serial bomber who had been terrorizing New York City. Burrows used deductive reasoning, psychological theory, and crime-scene analysis to come up with a finely tuned description of the culprit. When the Mad Bomber was apprehended, he fit the profile well, reportedly down to the buttoned up double-breasted suit he was wearing. One might speculate that the profile was so accurate, there might have been a little magic mixed into the process.
Which brings me back to the question. Is profiling an art or a science? John Douglas (one of the first FBI criminal profilers) and others have now developed standardized analytic techniques and a classification system, based on both their experiences and on data gathered from the study of serial murderers. But there is no doubt that the scarcity of serial killers available for analysis and the retrospective and subjective nature of the case studies, create major obstacles to verifying the scientific validity of claims made by profilers.
Nevertheless, FBI profilers are highly sought after by law enforcement to assist in their most baffling cases. The proof of their value can be seen in their high success rate. What impresses me most about these intrepid men and women is their willingness to burrow deep into the darkest recesses of the human mind. I find both the profiler and the process fascinating.
In JUDGMENT, I hope to convey a glimmer of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a criminal investigative analyst. I loved writing this book, and I hope you’ll enjoy the series. You can read an excerpt of Judgment or sign up for my newsletter at CareyBaldwin.com.
The human brain fascinates me. What fascinates you? One lucky commenter will win a copy of Manda Collins upcoming Christmas novella, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS KISS on release day. Winner’s choice of e-book or print.
About Carey BaldwinCarey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award winning author of edgy suspense by night.
Posted on September 9, 2014, in Author Spotlight, Carey Baldwin, Criminal Profiling and tagged Carey Baldwin, Criminal Profiler, FBI fiction, Judgment, new release, Profiler, Romantic Thriller, Suspense. Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.