Today I’m honored and thrilled to have on my blog former FBI Special Agent Pete Klismet. He was selected to be one of the original group of criminal profilers in the 1980s. He is the founder of Criminal Profiling Associates on the web at: www.criminalprofilingassociates.com. Pete is a retired FBI criminal profiler who teaches, writes, and provides consulting services on this subject. Pete is here to help us understand exactly what he was trained to do—profile criminals.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ASSUMPTIONS OR COMMENTS YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT CRIMINAL PROFILING?
“How’d you know that?”
“Are you some sort of a psychic?”
“Do you have a crystal ball or something?”
Anyone who has been trained in criminal profiling and has worked with law enforcement agencies or has taught about the concept in college has heard all of these comments. And many more. The word “profiling” conjures up some sinister images in people’s minds and seems almost devilishly frightening to some but fascinating to others.
WHAT IS CRIMINAL PROFILING?
Criminal profiling is the art of developing a behavioral profile of an offender based on evidence from a crime scene and many other factors involved in an investigation of a violent crime. Profiling is sometimes done by a forensic psychologist, someone who has studied the criminal mind. However, since the mid-1980s the FBI has assumed a prominent role in the use of this technique. A profile may then be used by police departments to assist in apprehending the criminal. But a criminal profile by itself rarely solves a crime. In most cases that is accomplished by old-fashioned detective work.
A profile is intended to be a behavioral portrait of an offender. If done correctly, the profiler may be able to determine “why” a person committed the crime he did. If “why” can be determined, then we may have motive, and that can help identify the person who committed the crime. There is a lot that a crime scene can tell a profiler about the person who committed the crime. This is especially true in homicide investigations. Criminal profiling is often used to help investigators identify psychopaths and serial killers who might otherwise go free. It can also be used to help identify other types of offenders such as serial sex offenders.
In criminal profiling a crime scene often helps to label the offender as organized or disorganized. An organized offender will plan ahead, often choosing the victim ahead of time. Any tools needed are brought by the offender. He is meticulous with details, and it is clear that the crime was well thought out. This tells a profiler much about the offender.
Organized offenders tend to be high in the birth order of their family. They are very intelligent but often were underachievers in both school and life. Most of them have a live-in partner, are socially adept, and will follow the coverage of their crimes in the media very carefully. Contrary to popular belief, a killer of this nature, even a serial killer, is not “crazy.” Quite the opposite is true. They also “hide in plain sight,” and when identified are a complete surprise to people who know them and thought they were “perfectly normal.”
A more spontaneous or impulsive offense is often the work of a disorganized offender. He will act impulsively with little to no planning involved, and the crime scene will usually show this lack of planning. Seeing this, a trained profiler can draw some conclusions about this offender. Disorganized offenders are often of average or slightly below-average intelligence. They were younger children, they usually live alone and are not as socially mature or competent as an organized offender. They often live or work near the scene of the crime and tend to have a poor work history. Typically they are younger than the organized offenders.
Criminal profiling is used not only to find potential offenders but also to narrow down a list of offenders that has already been compiled by the police. Although it doesn’t work in every case, criminal profiling has helped investigators to apprehend hundreds of criminals. By studying the patterns and motives of previous offenders, profiling may enable investigators to predict the characteristics of current and future offenders, allowing killers and other perpetrators to be caught before they can continue on to more crimes.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SERIAL KILLERS?
Serial killers are a fairly recent phenomenon on the American landscape, and many people are captivated by what they do and how they do it. Some of them, such as Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker), and Jeffrey Dahmer have even had cult followings, as odd as that may seem. In some ways it sounds ghoulish, but at the same time the allure of a person who commits multiple murders presents a fear of the unknown, of not being able to comprehend such irrational acts, and a desire to learn more about what makes these people tick. To some it’s not all that interesting, but to many others it’s something they can’t learn or read enough about.
I became friends with the husband of one of my former students, an Air Force major, some years ago. We both enjoyed golf and would get together once or twice every couple of weeks and play 18 holes. After one round, we sat down and were enjoying a couple of cool, refreshing beers. Without any prompting and literally out of the clear blue sky, Paul said, “By the way, I want to thank you for ruining my love life.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Brandy lies in bed every night with a book about one serial killer or another. I have a hard time getting between her and her books.”
While we both got a good laugh out of that, I know I’ve had more than a few of my college students who were similarly absorbed with learning more and more about the dark and gruesome, illogical actions of people who kill others for “fun.” It’s one of the most irrational things man can do, yet trying to learn what drives them to kill with such blood-lust can almost consume one’s life. Unfortunately, we are using rational minds and thinking to try to understand their behavior. Thus the only explanation we can come up with is “they’re crazy.” Which is only rarely true.
When I went through what we called “Profiling Boot Camp” at the FBI Academy in the mid-1980s, I was the same way. Since then I’ve spent nearly thirty years reading virtually every book on particular serial killers that I could get my hands on. To the present date, that probably numbers well over one hundred books. With every book I read I learn something new, and I’ve continued to do the same thing for many years. I’ve also spent hundreds of hours studying these offenders and taught a class in college on “Criminal Profiling.”
Tell us about your new book.
FBI DIARIES: PROFILES OF EVIL
When I combine my years of training and experience with what I have learned from research and extensive reading, it almost seems unfair not to share that knowledge with other people who may have a similar interest or may be taking a course on criminal profiling in college. There are other books out there which some consider textbooks. Some of these contain information which is not consistent with what I learned and practiced. A few of these books offer the author’s own personal “spin” on profiling and, more often than not, this is someone who declared themselves a “profiler” because they read some books and perhaps have taken some psychology classes in college, including “Abnormal Psychology.”
I suppose anyone can make the same claim, but relatively few of us can make the claim with the training, education and experience to back it up. And I think that’s what’s driven me for so many years. No one “knows it all” about criminal profiling, and I certainly don’t claim to. In fact, one thing I’ve learned over the years is the more I learn, the less I seem to know, but I continue to want to learn as much as I can. And that’s what I hope to offer anyone who reads this book, whether you’re similarly fascinated and want to know more or whether the topic simply intrigues you. And that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Anytime I tell people what I have done for most of my life, I get a similar “Gee whiz” reaction, and they want to know more.
This is not an academic treatise in which you will have to review statistical tables with boring columns of numbers and percentages. Unlike a college textbook, I’ve tried to write this in a conversational manner. I try to take you through some of the training we received and provide several cases which may give you an understanding into how a profiler’s mind works and why they think the way they do. Hopefully I’ve written it in a way that will be understandable, and the cases I’ve reviewed should add some credibility to the concepts in an early part of the text.
I promise you that I’ve put as much of my learning and experience into this book as I possibly can, and if you study some of the concepts and cases I’ve studied or profiled, you may gain a similar thirst to know even more. If I make you think in a different way, I’ve done my job. And an author or a teacher can’t hope to accomplish more than that.
THANK YOU, Pete, for taking the time to visit my blog! I wish you many sales for your book! I’m waiting for mine to arrive in the mail as I type! Your book will help me better define my character, Johnny Gaston, who so far sounds like your fictional clone!
Here is the blurb for Pete’s book: FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil at Amazon
Step into the shoes of an FBI agent working cases in the field.
Walk along the path as he is selected to be one of the original FBI “Profilers.”
Take an inside view of the extraordinary and groundbreaking training received by this “new breed” of FBI agents made famous by the renowned Behavioral Science Unit.
Work along with him and see what he’s thinking as he analyzes facts and develops profiles in several murder cases he investigates.
“Pete has a fascinating story to tell, and the reader is fortunate to have been invited to listen. Read and enjoy.” -Legendary FBI Profiler Roy Hazelwood – best selling author of Dark Dreams and The Evil That Men Do.
“The stories he shares of his days in the FBI and the years he spent as one of the agency’s first profilers are incredibly engaging. After reading this book, all I can say is, ‘I’m sure glad Pete was on our side!'” David Gibb, best selling author of Camouflaged Killer.
You can find his book trailer for FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcmgAPGHFbo
You can connect with Pete at:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pete.klismet
I hope you all have enjoyed this as much I as have.
Until next time,
Blog edited by Sally Berneathy