Everyone seems to love a good criminal profiler story. A ruthless killer is on the loose. Law enforcement can’t seem to make any progress on the case. Then, some mastermind detective steps in. And using their investigation skills, along with their expertise in psychology and behavioral science, they create a detailed profile of the maniacal killer.
And, as a result, the police then have a reasonably accurate portrait of the person they are looking for. Which, in turn, enables law enforcement to focus their efforts on a narrower field of potential perps. And, due in large part to the meticulous work of the investigator’s criminal profiling, the police will have greatly increased their chances of making an arrest.
Today’s criminal profilers utilize the methodologies and techniques pioneered by their predecessors. And, in that regard, here are three historically prominent criminal profilers, who have paved the way.
Thomas Bond (1841 – 1901)
Dr. Thomas Bond, a British surgeon, is widely considered western civilization’s first true criminal profiler. Bond’s rise to prominence originated with his involvement in the investigation of London’s notorious Jack the Ripper killings.
In the late 1880s, serial killer Jack the Ripper terrorized the streets of London. The police were having no luck in finding a suspect. That’s when Dr. Bond and his colleague Dr. George Phillips got involved. In what many consider the first application of criminal profiling methodologies, Dr. Bond studied autopsy results and crime scene evidence from Jack the Ripper’s murder victims.
Utilizing his expertise in human behavior and biology, Dr. Bond drafted a detailed report of what he believed to be Jack the Ripper’s personality traits, behavioral characteristics and lifestyle.
Many in law enforcement believed that Jack the Ripper had a medical background due to his removal of the victims’ internal organs and other surgical incisions made to their bodies. But Dr. Bond contradicted the prevailing view by assessing that the killer had no medical training whatsoever. And that his mutilation of bodies showed he had no true knowledge of human anatomy.
Despite Dr. Bond’s detailed written report of Jack the Ripper’s characteristics, the police never found the killer. Nevertheless, the early days of criminal profiling had now begun, and future investigators have relied upon and studied Dr. Bond’s sound methodologies.
Walter C. Langer (1899 – 1981)
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to German immigrants, Dr. William Langer graduated Harvard University in 1935 with a Ph.D. in psychoanalysis. Upon graduating, Langer moved to Vienna, where he was analyzed by and worked under Dr. Anna Freud, the daughter of legendary psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.
Dr. Langer’s specialty – psychoanalysis – investigates the intersection of a person’s conscious and unconscious fears, and repressed memories. The ultimate goal of this type of therapy is to resolve inner and outer conflicts.
After World War II broke out, Dr. Langer began working for the US government in the Office of Strategic Service. He was immediately tasked with performing a criminal profile on the Nazi movement and, in particular, on Adolf Hitler. In drafting his study, Dr. Lang applied his background in behavior and psychology, and utilized the Allies intelligence gathering of Hitler’s crimes against humanity.
The end result was the historically significant report – The Mind of Adolf Hitler. The report was held top-secret for over 30 years but was eventually released to the public in 1972 and subsequently translated into many languages.
In his report, Dr. Langer predicted that the “most plausible outcome” of Hitler’s demise would be suicide. And as history has revealed – his prediction was accurate. Dr. Langer also suggested that if Hitler didn’t kill himself, a military coup would have most likely eventually occurred.
Dr. Langer’s methodology in profiling Hitler has been studied for generations and has been used by others in the field who have been tasked with analyzing despots, and other war criminals.
In addition to his profiling, Dr. Langer has been credited with helping Jewish people and other vulnerable groups escape Vienna after the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938.
James A. Brussel (1905 – 1982)
A trailblazer in the investigative techniques used in the criminal profiling process, Dr. James Brussel assisted the NYPD in several high-profile cases.
Most notably, Dr. Brussel helped solve the mystery of a serial bomber who terrorized Manhattan during a 16-year period beginning in 1940. The so-called “mad bomber” would plant homemade bombs in random places throughout the city, like phone booths and movie theaters. He would also target iconic, well-populated places such as Penn Station, Grand Central Station and Radio City Music Hall.
After years of no leads, the police became extremely frustrated that they had no information on the bomber’s identity or motivation. So, they called in Dr. Brussel for help.
After studying crime scene photos and letters mailed to the press by the perp, Dr. Brussel delivered a detailed criminal profile of the bomber.
And by detailed – I mean extremely detailed. Dr. Brussel concluded that the bomber was a heavy-set middle-aged man from Connecticut, who was a skilled mechanic with a hatred for his dad and an obsessional love for his mother. Additionally, Dr. Brussel opined that the perp had a deep resentment for ConEd, the city’s power company. And last but not least – Dr. Brussel believed that when the mad bomber was caught, he’d be wearing a fully buttoned, double-breasted suit.
This profile turned out to be unbelievably accurate. In fact, when they arrested George Metesky, he was wearing pajamas but when the police allowed him to change his clothes – he reappeared wearing a fully buttoned, double-breasted suit. And his hatred for ConEd was also accurate, as he had been injured while employed with the utility company.
Dr. Brussel’s techniques are well-respected and taught to the new generation of profilers.
Criminal profiling is certainly a very intellectually and emotionally demanding job. What personal traits do you think are needed in order to excel at that job?
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