Wednesday, September 19, 2012
I was watching one of my favorite TV shows t'other day, "criminal minds". It follows a group of experienced FBI agents who belong to an elite team of "profilers".
There actuall IS such a team...established by President Reagan back in 1984 called the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. (NCAVC) It really does not look like the TV show though....for one thing, everybody there wears glasses. And everybody has at least 7 or 8 years experience as a special agent, so most of them are also bald and overweight. In other words, experienced and dangerous, if easily winded.
The only good thing that came out of the NCAVC of course is that paperwork bane of policemen everywhere...the Crime Classification Manual's 22 page classification system (VICLASS) which is entered onto computer. Not universally used, which is not surprising since it adds an extra hour and half to a very long day, it has its successes.
I wish the whole science of "profiling" was a science, not the "shot in the dark" which it actually is. Like TV psychics, they record their hits (sometimes spectacular) and ignore their misses (the vast majority). Trouble is, of course, is the loss of time and waste of scarce resources which profiling results in, and which has resulted in a general distrust of the whole art. Too bad. Unfortunately, profiling is not the scientific silver bullet, cops still have to fall back on old fashioned police work, (gathering evidence to support info from interviewees,) to get the perps. Its not like "Silence of the Lambs".
But who knows...It may be getting better. I hope so. A lady friend of mine who was taking forensic science at the University of Manitoba told me that profiling is considered to be VERY suspect. Not the fancy profiling like in the TV show, but the rather low level profiling used to track down people who don't know each other and yet assault each other. Robert Picton was glossed over because he was not a "young white male with no job and anti-social". In fact, he was an older, very gregarious party animal who owned a successful farm. A fixture on Berrard Street, he was glossed over by the profiling detectives for years. She notes that there is a highway of tears in British Columbia which has lost at last count 11 young aboriginal girls...vanished without a trace. She suggests that perhaps rather than looking for the guy who did it, she would extend the pool to look for the gal who did it.
(Oh, and don't follow any of the above links if you have a weak stomach...unlike the TV show, this stuff is real.
What prompted this little essay? Well, I was watching "criminal minds", and wondered if this stuff actually worked, and remembered my policeman friend bitching about having to do all that "damned VICLAS" paperwork. Which led to a quiet half hour this morning doing some research!
Ah the joy of the internet!