Is Psychological Profiling all its cracked up to be?

Research output: Contribution to non-peer-reviewed publicationNewspaper article


Ultimately, profiling is not just about identifying offenders. Profilers are generally used for the more horrific and disturbing crimes, and these are the ones where police officers have the most trouble coming to grips with the offender’s behaviour and the extreme, graphic brutality of the crime. A profiler’s advice also gives the police an insight into the mentality of the offender and gives them an understanding of why the criminal did what he did. In Ireland, profilers have been used just once when they were called in after the bodies of two women were found horrifically mutilated in Dublin last year. The crime scene was so appalling and the injuries to the bodies so barbaric, that the investigators felt at a loss to understand how such violence could be perpetrated. Police officers do not call in profilers for robberies or car-thefts or incidents of domestic violence, because they are familiar with these crimes. They understand the offender’s motivation: greed, excitement, alcohol. Police officers turn to profiling when they are confronted with something so extreme that they are at a loss to understand the motivation of the offender. This is what happened in Dublin last year. As there was only a 3% chance that the profilers helped identify the killer, there might not be much incentive to get advice again, but more importantly, the profilers would have given the investigators an understanding of the killer, and in the UK, this understanding has improved both the confidence and the morale of detectives, even if it does not add anything new in terms of evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Specialist publicationThe Examiner
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 1998


  • offender profiling
  • psychological profiling

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