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Evolution and Application of Offender Profiling

  • 10 Pages
  • Published On: 2-12-2023

The concept of offender profiling has been in use from a long time mostly developed in 1970s as a research method which were brought to light by the FBI Academy in Quantico. This initiative brought before the world the need to develop an interest in analyzing the crime scene which shall speak volume about the characteristics of the offender of the crime. This aids in streamlining the investigative procedures which further helps in developing the investigation as it helps in prioritizing the possible offenders by the characteristics inferred and list down the offenders. Generally, it is the way toward gathering information from case as evident and recounted data form the case study and afterward changing the information into portrayals of kinds of people who are most regularly connected with a particular kind of crime. It is largely contended that, because of the numerous issues presented by the following of chronic guilty parties, mental profiling is utilized to organize an assortment of manslaughters and other genuine violations. The research method undertaken by the FBI Academy also lead to the outburst of the concept of offender profiling. It is also characterized as the cycle through which the specialist is helped to decide the kind of the most plausible characteristics of an individual through which the specialist is helped to decide the kind of the most plausible characteristics of an individual to have perpetrated the offence. This includes a thorough investigation of the crime scene assessments made of the dead body and examining all accessible material, for example, police agendas, photos, also, legal reports which are then assembled is then thought about against accessible exploration of such other experiences.


The behavioural investigative advice relies highly on the trends of offender profiling where there is a possibility that potential offenders might be located by the actions taken in and around the crime scene, by collecting and perusing the close details within crime scene may exhibit the trends of the offender, be it through the behavioural aspect, their tendencies and pattern in which the crime is committed or suggests major personality traits that may directly lead to the offender. It has been considered that any offender that leaves the site of the crime is bound to leave traces of his action behind which is highly indicative of the offender along with the techniques used in the commission of the crime reflects the pre planning that may have been invested in which elicits the level of intelligence of the offender. The personality of an offender is extremely lucrative which gives a direction to the investigating officers.

Offender Profiling as a concept showed possible positive outcomes and the question whether this process may yield any result at all or even misdirect some. Copson invested in assessing whether this process serves any major purpose and it was found that it provides with two kinds of measures that was found via many researches to be yielding active results. It advances the investigation and sets a foreground on which the investigation functions. The measures could be predictive in nature as it assists the investigation to run on certain predictions that have been made through the analysis of the crime scene, the train of actions and the possible thought process that went behind the commission of the crime. The other measure could also be explanatory in nature as that helps in eliciting the possible reasons behind the course of action undertaken by the offender helping them to rely on such assumptions and predictions.

This essay will look into the basic assumptions that are bagged by the concept of offender profiling initially. The two approaches will be critically analyzed throughout the essay which may also reveal as to why the these profiling approaches may not be valid or reliable for the police officials to act upon the predictions ascertained by it.

Basic assumptions

In profiling the offender is assumed to abide by a few considerations. Firstly, the concept that links personality and crime scene. It is assumed that the psychological motivation of an offender can be found highly within the crime scene if investigated thoroughly. This helps in streamlining the process that may be undertaken for the investigation. It is also further assumed that the offender has a personality that is fixed and is not exhibited differently on different crime scenes or offences. This justification is primarily because that the core personality trait of a person is largely fixed up until the teenage years of the person. Therefore, the trends of executing the person’s criminal instinct remains more or the same with fewer changes. Lastly, every offender has a very unique pattern or signature to the crimes committed. It can be seen through the language they use, the tools they use, the method they choose to execute their crime etc. It is considered and widely agreed that this trend generally remains the same for every offender.

Behaviour Profiling

Profiling has been highly reliant tool used by FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit that helps the team to create a profile of the offender and declare them as person of interest and the people who charts the offenders by their behavioural characteristics are known as “Profilers”. Douglas’s “Behaviour reflects personality” has been evidently functional in the case of tracking “Jack the Ripper” where the profile of the probable suspect was drawn up by the Metropolitan Police helped in tracking down the offender by following the footsteps of the evidence in the crime scene that helped in reconstruct the murder so much so it spoke volumes about the personality trait of the offender, later on helping them to point towards the same direction. This functions as a guideline and serves a lot for the investigation to begin towards a certain direction.

Generally, the typology of a Behaviour profiling at the very root stage is considered that in case of a crime that is organized in nature says sufficiently about the offender. Firstly, it can be considered that the person engaged in committing the organized crime has a life that is particularly in order, therefore this aspect drives the offender to commit the crime in order which also reflects that he/ she is a person with sufficient intelligence as opposed to a situation where a crime has been committed in a disorganized manner, in that case the person does not exhibit a very organized background, therefore exhibiting lower intelligence level. Thirdly, the category of crimes that evidences both kinds infused into a crime like mixed category and the other known as the sadistic category reflect the sadistic tendencies by causing excruciating pain to the victim by relentlessly torturing and hurting the person. The typology exhibits the dichotomy between the two categories of crime has been relied on by the police in America as well as other countries.The causations of murders caused by serial killers have been segregated into five classes..

The investigation carried on by the FBI has been segregated into stages that help in profiling by relying on the method of Behaviour profiling. The first stage requires in collecting data and information from the crime scene as well as pertaining to the crime like the forensic, post mortem report, police report, visual documentation of the crime etc. These are helped in gathering to study the crime and the method of operation. This stage is largely known as “Profiling inputs”. Secondly, the information that are gathered help in making the decision regarding the information gathered help in understanding the sole objective that the offender had. This stage reveals all the crucial details of the offence regarding the time that may be required to commit the crime, the location, the risk that the offender may have borne etc. The third stage is the stage of connection. The profiler is required at this stage to refer to the documents gathered along with the basic decisions made and then deeply evaluate the patterns of the crime, the motivation of the crime, the people involved and interacted with etc. This stage reveals the pattern of the crime as whether he crime is committed in an orderly fashion or not. However, the next stage integrates the information and relying on that basis, physical attributes that may enable the crime, the traits, behaviour etc are derived through this stage and an overall generation to the case. Lastly, this profile is then applied by the officers in the process of investigation and drafted in a formal manner and finally the accuracy shall be tested.

It has been researched and found that the inference of a criminal’s intelligence through the organized and disorganized dichotomy had no reliant tests and was executed on a small sample which may be misleading as the results of a research conducted on a small sample may vary largely if executed against a larger sample. Therefore, this will never ensure effective and solid outcomes (Walter, Eliasziw and Donner, 1998) and might cause the outcome to not be intelligent of the overall circumstance. Varieties in examples and contrasts in character offer a great deal of data and utilizing a little populace to make a hypothesis, thus rendering this dichotomous model to be perilous. This has been seconded by Canter as well in a research.Secondly, today’s criminal background often points towards some suppressed trauma, distorted childhood, absent parenting etc. but the research conducted by Douglas, Ressler had not mentioned any deviant tendency in the offender.

Clinical Approach

This approach of offender profiling is the way to deal with profiling in a vigorous dependent manner relying solely on clinical judgment, preparing, information, experience, and additionally instinct, with the strategies utilized changing as indicated by the person practitioner. The essential spotlight is on the particular subtleties of each specific case. Profilers of this methodology consider each to be as extraordinary and accept they ought to be treated all things considered (Boon, 1997) but this method does not provide any leeway to access and survey the legitimacy of the process. This process requires a professional with sound training and experience which shall be suitable to produce predictions that are accurate and error free.Turco, in his research had focussed on the fact that every individual contains a violent streak that leads them to commit heinous crime, owes largely to the distorted relationship between the mother and her child as it has been noted that female children take a lot behind the negative implication portrayed by the mother that has been transferred subconsciously to the daughter. The method requires the profiler to analyse the crime on the whole so that a comprehensive picture is confirmed which then is evaluated to figure out the psychodynamic processes that goes behind as a motivation. This approach focusses on the fact whether the offender is suffering from any kind of neurological disorder that enables them to look at a crime in a certain way and makes it easier for them to commit the same. The disorder often times, reduces the risk of the crime, the attached obligation of the crime and provokes them to look at the scenario narrowly which therefore helps to commit the offence. the profiler is needed to examine the same offence and the crime scene regarding the partition individuation period of the offender if any applies. Lastly, the clinical approach relies on the profiler’s attempt to evaluate the entire picture given the magnitude of the crime, the clinical motivations of the offender, the possibilities and risks undertaken and finally the profiler is meant to create the profile of the unknown obscure guilty party and break down the features that may assist the offender to commit such an offence. Clark and Carter (2000) had taken the help of the clinical approach to help frame the profile of murders motivated sexually who were treated in the Brixton, Prison.

Turco had segregated murderers on different categories who are mostly motivated sexually and tried to analyse the core reason of their motivation commit crimes that are extremely heinous torturous as well as excruciatingly painful sexually. Firstly, murders are narrowly concerned with sexual murders are said to be persuaded by sexual and masturbatory fascination and sadistic in nature that drives their sexual drive to a great extent. There are another sect of “Sexually Triggered Murder” where the offenders exhibit methods to who submits a forceful, yet controlled homicide, which uses slaughtering as a way to keep the casualty calm. Also, there is another kind of murderer who do not necessarily carry the premonition to kill someone but are somehow triggered by an opinion exhibited by the victim which may enrage the offender to carry out the murder. Lastly, Murders who show indistinct inspirations of one guilty party who displayed clear neuropsychological deficiencies, may also be motivated to commit the crime.


The pattern of profiling in both Behavioural as well as clinical approach highly relies on the individual skill, knowledge and understanding of either psychology or psychodynamic knowledge, largely based on educated guess and intuition. Turco has explained the way this approach can be used but fails to provide proper guidance on how can the profile be drafted. The hindrance is basically on the reliance put on the knowledge of the medical practitioner who can further utilize that analysis to form an explicit idea to create the profile of the offender since the role of the clinician and the investigating officer are highly distinct and both the roles cannot be merged. The analysis of the offence and connection with the offender’s possible disorders present or not are generally vague and ambiguous which can be misleading as well.

Accuracy and Assumptions of Offender Profiling

Robert Ressler had strongly advocated for the inclusion of offender profiling and the accuracy it may achieve if the behaviour, personality, characteristics, traits of an offender is studied especially the psychological motive behind such offence. The mind of a human being is extremely attached to the actions taken from smaller mundane activity to actions that is scripted under serious crimes are all a product of the mind. Therefore, the psychological factor drives the offender to take recourse of the action they do which should be utilized while investigating the crime. It has been published that about 80% of all profiling that are done reflect accurate results In a study made by Pinzitto in the year 1984, the process of profiling had revealed great accuracy and assistance as about 46% of such profiling showed success. John Douglas had confirmed that about 600 cases per year are relied on profilers for the profiling that are done. Generally profiling is done to indicate a direction but does not provide substantial evidence which is not generally considered as a valuable tool for the officers in the process of investigation but such has not been the case. Jackson in a study had also devised a report that reflected the position of profiling in Netherlands where the value of profiling as a stool was accepted but only one of them had not agreed on the procedure.

To conduct profiling it must be accompanied by certain assumptions that are just aiding tools like Behavioural consistency tool which very clearly relies heavily on the psychological pattern behaviour and traits of the offender that is reflected on crime scenes. This tool however ascertains that if a crime is committed by an offender in a particular order then if another crime is committed by the same offender, some amount of consistency is to be found since it is the product of the same behavioural pattern. . Richard Owen had contributed to another assumption that drives offender profiling which is Homology. Through this, it is attempted to devise that if offenders show some consistency in committing the crime therefore the crime scene shall also reflect similar pattern of traits inhibited by the two separate offenders. The biological intervention in ascertaining the characteristics in offenders show the structures of the offender and not the functionality of the two

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Offender profiling has shown to be excessively used by investigating officers who rely on the tool only because it does the groundwork for them and the intention is to have direct lead towards identifying the offender. It is a great tool that is relied on by the police, investigating officers, law enforcement officials but the primary aim of the tool is create predictions only and not ascertain the offender. Even though greater reliance is placed on the tool but the trends have seen a distinctive change and the predictive tools are not always accurate and in many instance it has been outrightly rejected by many country’s officials. Even though it establishes a direction for the investigations to start but it has been highly misleading in many cases. The criticisms of both the approaches may reveal as to why the profiling technique is not full proof and may not be adequately reliable. Thus, the numbers vary with reference to the ones relying blindly on profiling from the ones who take the analysis and rely on the help provided but do not blindly take on the prediction. The criticisms have been growing currently and in the contemporary times the reasons for criminal intent have been owed on greater factors that have relied on other sociological factors.


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