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October 16, 2002

Putting a Face on a

Putting a Face on a Killer

What is psychological profiling? Is it useful? Last night on television, two men were arguing about the validity of this practice. One man, a person who participated in the hunt for the Son of Sam, suggested that the practice of psychological profiling is an exercise in futility. He claimed that nobody, and he meant NOBODY, has ever been arrested based on tips received from a profiler.

The other man, whose job it has been to profile murderers, not surprisingly, chimed in regarding the usefulness of this practice. He argument did lack some punch. He said that the practice can be immensely helpful, and then stated that although many people are not caught due to the profiling, it is amazing how many times a person is arrested who meets the qualities described by the profilers.

My conclusion is that it is a complete waste of time. The hunt for the sniper is a good example of this. Recently found in the New York Times, three different theories have been discussed. The ideas are that the sniper is possibly a loner, a hunter, or a teenager. Is this helpful? What skills do you need to have in order to be a profiler? Perhaps this occupation is similar to that of a fortune teller or the person who writes your horoscope each day. I am not sure what methods are used to profile someone other than to look at previous killings and make predictions based on that information. In order to make my point, let me act as a profiler and make some assumptions of the sniper, realizing that I have no previous training in this craft.

1. Sniper is a male. This is a good bet for a number of reasons. First, all witnesses have reported seeing a male, or men, in the “van.” Also, it is simply a good guess since most killers in history have been men, as well as men traditionally being more adept at firing a gun.
2. Sniper is someone who does not care for other people. This is what we refer to as a “no-brainer.” Dammit, this guy is killing random, innocent people. Even my 22 month old can tell that he does not have any warm feelings for human life.
3. Sniper is brazen, bold and not afraid of getting caught. Hey Sherlock, the guy shot his last victim at an estimated 30 yards, that is definitely bold. If he cared much about being caught he would have shot his victim from farther away than 30 yards and done it from a more remote location than in the middle of a busy parking lot.
4. Sniper is a loner. Must be, because if he had a bunch of friends, family and coworkers, somebody might have noticed him being gone every time somebody has been shot and would eventually put 2 and 2 together and go to the police.

I don’t see how using a profiler is helping this investigation or any previous investigations. Instead of wasting the money paying a consultant some astronomical fee to come up with this composite of a person, I suggest taking that money and hiring more policemen to get on the case, because it is that group that is going to solve this killing spree, not a profiler.

Posted by Woundwort at October 16, 2002 03:37 PM | TrackBack
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