Criminal Profiling: History

Essay by guitarloser420University, Master'sA+, December 2004

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"Criminal Profiling is the process of inferring distinctive personality characteristics of individuals responsible for committing crimes." (Swanson) A process Swanson, Chamelin and Territo claim has a history of fifty years, in all actuality can be dated back more than twice as long.

The first documented act of criminal profiling involves Dr. Thomas Bond, the surgeon who performed autopsies on the five women killed by Jack the Ripper. Bond said that one person alone who was physically strong, cool, and daring had committed all five. He thought the man would be quiet and inoffensive in appearance, middle-aged, and neatly attired, probably wearing a cloak to hide the bloody effects of his attacks out in the open. He would be a loner, without a real occupation, eccentric, and mentally unstable. He might even suffer from a condition called Satyriasis, a sexual deviancy. Very likely, those who knew him would be aware that he was not right in his mind.

(Ramsland) Sadly Jack the Ripper was never brought to justice and profiling shifted from the autopsy table to the couch, now in the hands of psychiatrists.

Actual profiling did take a backseat for the next fifty years as the science was studied. Doctors would interview killers to better study the tendencies of those men, including the 1960-spree killer Charles Starkweather, and a 1930 German serial killer Peter Kurten. The U.S. Office of Strategic Services even requested a profile of Adolf Hitler in 1942. Dr. Walter C. Langer found that:

Hitler was meticulous, conventional, and prudish about his body. He was robust and viewed himself as a standards-bearer and trendsetter. He had manic phases, yet took little exercise. He was in good health, so it was unlikely he would die from natural causes, but he was deteriorating mentally. He would not try to...