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Criminal Profiling, Its History and Legality Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021


Criminal profiling/criminal investigative analysis/investigative psychology is a relatively fresh field in criminal investigations. In be considered as a merger between psychology and investigative science. The method involves analysis of evidence that may be obtained from witnesses, victims, or crime scenes to come up with either a psychological or physical description of the criminal. Some of the physical traits which an investigator can deduce from a criminal profiling analysis include; age, sex, race and where they are located at that time, and marital status, while some of the psychological traits which one can come up with from the same type of analysis include personality traits, behavioral traits, and psychological tendencies. (Dan, 2005)

Criminal profiling is a collaboration between two types of people. These are psychologists and law enforcers. Psychologists normally use the knowledge they have acquired from criminal profiling to help catch a criminal on the run or to question a suspect who may already have been captured but may be released due to lack of evidence on the side of the law enforcers or criminologists working on the case. (Crime Library, 2007)

Historical analysis of criminal profiling

Criminal profiling has been in place for decades. However, the most notable group associated with this method of criminal investigation is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Actually, many retired members of the bureau claim that they were the ones who came up with some of the common methods of analysis used in the field. But this may not necessarily be true; as early as the nineteenth century, there was the use of criminal profiling to investigate suspects. One of the first users of this method was a doctor called Thomas Bond. He was hired in the 1880s to investigate crimes that had been committed by a serial rapist called ‘Jack the ripper.’ There were a number of methods that Bond the surgeon used to investigate the crimes that still form a backbone today of criminal profiles. (Dan, 2005)

First of all, the surgeon made a rough reconstruction of what had happened prior to the victim’s death. He used material surrounding the scene of the crime to establish some clues regarding the criminal. One such example is how he discovered that there was too much blood on one corner of the sheet, where he concluded that the lady might have been wrapped by this same sheet. He also examined the type of wounds that had been made on the victim and concluded that the person who inflicted those wounds must have been well dressed, someone who does not offend others, and one who was somewhere in his mid-thirties.

The doctor also came up with the idea of behavioral patterns, which is still applicable today. Here, a profiler normally examines a number of crimes that have been committed in the recent past then a certain behavioral pattern is established. This is normally based on the fact that every criminal has a certain feature that is only characteristic of them, and this can be used to link a number of crimes to one name. Doctor Bond realized that all the victims he took a look at had similar mutilations. Some of these victims included Eddowes, Kelly, and Chapman. In relation to the type of wound inflicted, it was found that most of the wounds that the suspect inflicted depicted a lack of awareness of how the internal structure of the human body works or looks like. (Campbell, 2004)

Another historical origin of criminal profiling occurred in The Second World War. Here, part of what is now identified as the CIA was asked to profile Adolph Hitler because he was one of the key people in the war. A psychiatrist called Walter Langer was hired for the job. They wanted to discover what was the driving force behind Hitler was, what he would say in case he was being questioned (a major reason for conducting current profiles nowadays) and what would be his next course of action if he realized that he had was going to lose the war.

Langer established some truths that made the idea of wartime profiling a common phenomenon. This was especially applied in the Gulf and Vietnam Wars. The psychiatrist predicted that if Hitler realized that he was going to lose the War, he was most likely to commit suicide as he overruled the likelihood of death by natural causes, assassination, or even a military coup. His predictions came to pass, and he paved the way for the use of profiling in similar scenarios.. (Campbell, 2004)

There was also another case where profiling was applied in the case of a bomber in the City of New York. He had planted about thirty bombs in different locations throughout the City and had evaded the police for about eight years. There was a psychiatrist called James Brussels who was hired to profile the criminal. This psychiatrist used a number of sources to establish some psychological and physical traits that the criminal might possess.

He used photos for crime scenes, letters that the criminal had written, and other relevant sources to come up with one of the most accurate profiles to date. The physical appearances predicted included; type of clothing the criminal would be wearing, his racial origin, the fact that he was living with a relative, his built, i.e., he was heavy, his religion, i.e., he was Catholic. Also, some of the psychological traits that were predicted included the State he lived-Connecticut, his hatred for his dad, his love for his mother, and his paranoia. These were all facts that were found to be true when the criminal was caught. (Crime Library, 2007)

Whether crime profiling is a legitimate crime-fighting tool

Crime profiling is still in thorough use today, although there have been some improvements to the process. For example, when investigators in the FBI want to establish some facts about what a murderer or a rapist’s personality is, they check on four phases of this murderer’s behavior. The first phase is called the antecedent. Here, investigators try to ask themselves what did the criminal have in mind before he committed the crime. What did he want to achieve, and why did he choose a particular day instead of another. The second phase is the manner and method. Here investigators normally establish the method the criminal used to commit the crimes, i.e., was it through a blunt object, strangle, or through the use of an automatic weapon. They also examine the types of victims that were chosen. (Winerman, 2004)

The third phase is the body disposal stage. Facts are established as to how and where criminals dispose of their bodies if it is a murder case. They normally ask themselves whether it was done only in one area or in several locations. Lastly, post offense behavior; here, investigators determine how the criminal is behaving after the crimes, i.e., does he contact investigators or does he go to the media. All these four phases are used to place criminals into two categories, i.e., organized or disorganized category. The organized list consists of those who had carefully thought out their crimes and left minimal evidence at the crime scene, while the disorganized list consists of those who had committed the crime hurriedly and without premeditation. (Crime Library, 2007)

There are also some methods used by psychologists in the modern day to establish truths about criminals. This is mostly because there have been some differences that have arisen between methods used by the FBI and methods used by psychologists. These psychologists claim that evidence verified as true should come from empirical research and not from experience as was commonplace among investigators.

The psychologists’ approach is such that there should be thorough scientific research done on all available evidence. Psychologists believe that the organized/ disorganized pattern used by the FBI is not very valid because they found out that most criminals exhibit organized behavior to some extent. For example, most criminals will try to hide the body of their victim in an organized manner, or they will try to position their victims in a certain way.

Psychologists use the fact that the distinguishing feature among most criminals’ is the disorganized behavior which they will exhibit. For example, it is common to find that some criminals will want to show control over their victims while others will mutilate in a certain way or plunder in a different way too. This procedure is especially applied to rapists. (Dan, 2005) Psychologists came up with the idea that all types of crimes are committed in a particular manner characteristic of that crime. This means that there should be an investigation done for all crimes like arson, burglary, robbery with violence, etc., then a given pattern will be established. They suggest that a similar procedure as that one applied to rape cases should be followed.


Contrary to what many may think, criminal profiling is not a Hollywood creation; it is more than a myth and is an invaluable tool used in crime-fighting. Its history dates back to the nineteenth Century where psychologists used the method to establish facts about a number of criminals at that time. Some of the criminals that were apprehended as a result of this method of crime-fighting included the bomber of New York, Jack the Ripper, and also Adolph Hitler. (Dan, 2005)

The method is also applied today to fight crime. The leading example is the Federal Bureau of Investigation that normally places criminals into two categories, i.e., the organized and disorganized categories. They do this by examining four phases of the criminal’s actions. Psychologists also have their own way of profiling. This normally applies to rapists who may not necessarily be distinguished by organized behavior but are mostly distinguished by disorganized behavior. (Crime Library, 2007)


Crime Library (2007): Criminal Profiling. Web.

Winerman Lea (2004): Criminal Profiling: the reality behind the myth; Monitor on Psychology vol. 35, no.7.

Campbell, H. (2004): Leading Investigators Take you inside the criminal mind; Rout ledge publishers.

Dan, K. (2005): The Art of Profiling; Melbourne Publishers.

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